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a situation still “worrying” in the Mediterranean, points out Ifremer

While it welcomes progress in the sustainable exploitation of fish populations in France, the organization deplores fishing pressure that is still “very high” in the Mediterranean basin on certain species, in particular hake.

“A slow improvement”, in line with previous years: this is the assessment drawn, this Friday, February 12, by Ifremer from the presentation of its annual data on the state of fish populations in France. The authors of the study “How are the fish?”intended to assess the impact of fishing on the maintenance of maritime species, wants to be optimistic.

In 2020, 60% of the volumes of fish caught in France come from sustainably exploited populations, compared to 15% 20 years ago, details the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea. But overfishing still affects 21% of populations. , and 2% are considered “collapsed” like hake in the Mediterranean.

Study “How are the fish doing?”, Ifremer

The situation in the Mediterranean, judged “worrying”, constitutes one of the black points of this inventory. Among the eight species considered, a third of the volume landed comes from populations affected by overfishing. Admittedly, the bluefin tuna is following an encouraging trajectory and is today considered “in reconstruction”. But the so-called bottom fishery – that is to say eel, red mullet and above all, hake – is the focus of concern today.

This fish has very different trajectories between the Atlantic coast and the Mediterranean coast. On the Atlantic seaboard, as for bluefin tuna, we have management plans that have reduced fishing pressure and we immediately saw an improvement in populations. The idea is to be able to obtain the same results on Mediterranean hake, where we see that the fishing pressure is still very high and that the population has decreased significantly.

Clara Ulrich, Deputy Scientific Director at Ifremer

The public body therefore pleads for increased regulation of fishing, among others in the Gulf of Lion. “Populations react very, very quickly to changes in fishing pressure and therefore can recover”, assures Clara Ulrich. In 2019, a European resource management plan, involving Spain, Italy and France, was thus adopted by the European Commission. In particular, it provides for the temporary closure of certain areas to protect young fish and limits the maximum duration of a fishing day.

“How to do ?”

But the salient point concerns the frequency of exit of the trawls. “The decision that was taken was to establish fishing effort quotas, explains Alain Biseau, fisheries biologist at Ifremer. We do not limit catches directly, we limit them indirectly by reducing the number of days at sea. By 2025, the objective is to reduce this figure by a third.

Last December, when negotiations were taking place for the year 2021, this point fueled the anger of professionals in the region. On the 7th, they demonstrated in Port-la-Nouvelle (Aude), denouncing a “completely aberrant management plan” which undermined their profitability. In the meantime, the number of days at sea authorized has been set at 183, specifies Bernard Pérez, president of the Regional Committee for Maritime Fisheries and Marine Farming, for whom this figure constitutes a “compromise”. “The question is what can we do to support, he develops. We want to work. We want sustainable and responsible fishing, that’s for sure. But how to do it ?”

We realize that with the efforts we are making to close fishing areas, there is a slight improvement. We hope that in 2025, we will be able to follow the RMD [Rendement Maximal Durable, NDLR]. But we need a follow-up, an accompaniment at the level of the sailors and the armaments. A few years back, we were at 230, 240 days, and we risk falling to 140 days. How do we all get there together?

Bernard Pérez, President of the Regional Committee for Maritime Fisheries and Marine Farming

And to call for close collaboration with Ifremer. For its part, the organization insists: among the alternative fishing methods, this is the “scenario that produces the most positive results, at the lowest economic cost and with the least uncertainty”, emphasizes Sandrine Vaz, laboratory manager of the Marbec unit in Sète. On this condition, it would be possible to hope for a “quick bounce” of the hake population, i.e. “within three years”.

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