The State of Mediterranean and Black Sea Fisheries 2023 report (SoMFi 2023) by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) presents a comprehensive overview of the region's fisheries and, for the first time, includes data on marine aquaculture.
The report reveals that the percentage of overfished stocks in the Mediterranean and Black Sea has dropped below 60% for the first time.
This marks a "significant" decline, according to the report, demonstrating a consistent reduction in fishing pressure over the past decade - and a 15% improvement over the last year. And, while concerns about overfishing persist, the report indicates a 31% decrease in fishing pressure since 2012.
The report notes that although the over-exploitation of fish stocks has "significantly" reduced, the sector still faces challenges. Key amongst these is sustainability, with fishing pressure in the Mediterranean and Black Sea still at twice the level considered sustainable.
However, fishery management and other measures do seem to be producing some positive results, the report notes.
For example, key commercial stocks such as European hake in the Mediterranean, turbot in the Black Sea, and common sole in the Adriatic Sea, all "showed a striking reduction in overfishing, some of them already revealed signs of biomass rebuilding". All of these stocks are under dedicated management plans by the GFCM.
The report also identified a notably larger-than-average reduction in fishing pressure for some stocks, registering a 77% reduction for common sole in the Adriatic Sea, now considered to be at sustainable exploitation rates, and a 73% reduction for turbot in the Black Sea.
Small pelagic fish, particularly European anchovy and sardine, continue to dominate catches across the region.
Turkey, Italy, and Tunisia are the leading nations in capture fisheries production, with Turkey holding the top position. Small-scale vessels constitute the majority of the fishing fleet, contributing more than half of total employment and nearly 30% of revenue.
The report also highlights the rapid growth of the region's marine aquaculture sector. Marine and brackish water aquaculture production has nearly doubled over the past decade, increasing by just over 91%, with revenues up by almost 75%.