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43 fish species in Mediterranean threatened: conservationist

Published on 19/04/2011

Some 43 species of fish native to the Mediterranean Sea are threatened with extinction, the International Union for Conservation of Nature said Monday, citing a new survey.

Many of the most threatened species are sharks and rays, said the IUCN, adding that they are at risk of disappearing due to overfishing, marine habitat degradation and pollution.

While some of these shark and ray species have little commercial value, they have also fallen victim to fishing gear used in the sea, including trawling nets, which indiscriminately haul up all kinds of fish.

“The use of trawling nets is one of the main problems for conservation and sustainability of many marine species,” Maria del Mar Otero, an IUCN programme officer said.

“Because it is not a selective technique, it captures not only the target fish but also a high number of other species while also destroying the sea bottom, where many fish live, reproduce and feed,” she explained.

Meanwhile, commercial species like the Atlantic bluefin tuna and the dusky grouper were also found to be endangered in the IUCN’s latest survey of 513 species and six sub-species occurring in the Mediterranean.

The reproduction potential of the bluefin tuna has halved over the past 40 years amid intensive overfishing, Kent Carpenter, IUCN global marine species assessment coordinator, noted.

“The lack of compliance with current quotas combined with widespread underreporting of the catch may have undermined conservation efforts for this species in the Mediterranean,” he warned.

Scientists have been pushing for lower catch limits on the Atlantic bluefin tuna, but at their last meeting in November, the 48-member International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas left quotas of the sushi mainstay virtually unchanged.