The marine conservation organization Oceana urges the European Union (EU) and the Mediterranean countries to take measures to recover the Mediterranean swordfish stock given that this resource stock has been reduced to a third due to overfishing in only three decades.
Oceana deplores that the European Union continues to ignore Mediterranean swordfish (Xiphias gladius) overfishing despite world renowned fisheries scientists are pointing out that Italy has failed to report around 41,000 tonnes in total for 20 years.
According to the NGO, this amounts to more than EUR 25 million a year and 15 per cent of all catches of this species in the Mediterranean, highlighting the severe overfishing the stock has being suffering for three decades now.
Oceana warns that the stock is under serious threat if illegal fishing is not curbed and catches are not regulated to enable its recovery.
"The science is clear: the situation for Mediterranean swordfish is critical and shows no signs of improvement", states Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe.
"Unlike the managed Atlantic stock, Mediterranean swordfish suffers from enduring overfishing, illegal fishing and a serious lack of political willingness to address the problem. We expect better from the European Union - the main culprit of the stock's depletion - especially considering that the EU is committed and obliged to ensure fisheries are sustainable by 2020," he adds.
Mediterranean swordfish has declined by about two thirds since the early 80s and 2013 witnessed the lowest ever total annual catch on record.
Moreover, 72 per cent of the declared landings are juvenile - specimens that hadn't had the chance to reproduce -, which further affects the recovery of this highly overfished stock.
Mediterranean swordfish plays an important socio-economic role in many Mediterranean coastal communities and Italy is the leading country in the fishery. However, as revealed by Oceana last year, illegally-caught swordfish continues to blatantly enter local Italian markets at elevated prices of up to EUR 30/kg, and the ONG claims the EU is fully aware of this but has so far refused to act.
In November, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) will hold a meeting in Malta in which Mediterranean swordfish will be part of the negotiations. Oceana urges Mediterranean Member States and the EU to propose and ensure the adoption and implementation of a proper Mediterranean swordfish recovery plan that can rebuild the stock to sustainable levels (MSY) by 2020.