Specificities of the Mediterranean sea

Specificities of the Mediterranean sea

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Specificities of the Mediterranean sea

Fish farming cages and nets in Adriatic sea ©iStockphoto.com/Baloncici

The Mediterranean Sea has a very distinct geographical, climatic and biological nature that makes it very different from other sea basins.

Biological specificities

a) Biodiversity: in the Northern Hemisphere, marine biodiversity increases from the North Pole toward the equator. This is reflected in a greater number of commercial species in the Mediterranean Sea, with generally smaller individuals compared with the EU waters in the north Atlantic.

b) Increased complexity of the marine ecosystem: This is the direct result of a greater number of species, with greater potential interactions between them as well.

c) Presence of invasive species: while this can also be found in other closed or semi-closed seas such as the Baltic Sea, it is a very common phenomenon in the eastern Mediterranean, with a high number of invasive species coming from the Red Sea through the Suez Canal.

Specificities in governance

a) No EU waters defined as such: the Union waters in the Mediterranean Sea are under the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the individual EU countries and do not extend to the 200-mile limit as in the Atlantic Ocean. Only in the Western Mediterranean Sea is the situation different, France having declared an Exclusive Economic Zone and Spain having declared a fisheries protection zone.

b) Shared stocks: As a result of the distribution of territorial waters, most of the surface of the Mediterranean Sea is made up of international waters and most commercial fish stocks are shared with other coastal states, many of which are not part of the EU. This shared responsibility increases from west to east and not so much from north to south.

c) International management of fisheries: Fisheries on shared stocks are managed by two regional fisheries organisations:

  • ICCAT for highly migratory species (these count for more than 10 % of the value of the total catches in the Mediterranean)
  • The GFCM for other species.

The political context can also make disciplined management difficult in cases of political instability (wars, post-war situations, migratory movements, etc.).

Specificities in fleet composition and fleet activity

a) Daily activity of boats: the vast majority of Mediterranean fishing vessels come back to port every day, generally with catches mixing several species. As each species is usually below the 50 kg threshold set by the Control Regulation, the catches are not declared.

b) Fleet composition: most of the vessels composing the Mediterranean fleet are less than 10 m long and therefore not covered by the rules on registering catches. As a result many catches are unrecorded. Small-scale operations involving small vessels with low daily catches represent 80 % of the Mediterranean fishing fleet, 60 % of jobs and 23 % of landings.

c) Economic performance: the 2015 Annual Economic Report noted a progressive deterioration in the economic performance of the small-scale coastal fleet. In sharp contrast to many EU fleets of other regions, which showed steady improvement, EU fleets in the Mediterranean region did not improve their economic performance significantly over the 2008-2013 period.