Conserving healthy populations of large pelagic fish in the Mediterranean Sea

Conserving healthy populations of large pelagic fish in the Mediterranean Sea

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
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Dates / Project duration

January 2023 - June 2025 / 30 months

Field of action :

Conservation of endangered species

Branch :


Location :

Mediterranean Sea

Project sponsor(s) :

WWF International


Large pelagics and other marine megafauna play a crucial role in the balance of marine ecosystems. The entire food web of the pelagic environment depends on the ecological services provided by these iconic species. They influence the balance of the food web and the overall structure and functioning of marine ecosystems. Their ecological importance goes far beyond their dominant role as apex predators and their decline is a worrying sign for the overall health of the Mediterranean and calls for urgent action.

The biggest challenge facing bluefin tuna, albacore, swordfish and pelagic sharks in the Mediterranean is overfishing.

Although several stocks are currently managed under long-term rebuilding or management plans, the typical time frame for achieving the objectives of these plans is extremely long (over 15 years) and the probability of success is between 50 and 70%. It is therefore extremely important to constantly monitor implementation and measure effectiveness against stock status. Periodic reviews of the plans give managers the opportunity to adjust the plans and enable the achievement of the goals.

This project aims to rebuild bluefin tuna, albacore and swordfish populations, while protecting the most endangered pelagic sharks in the Mediterranean by sustainably managing their target fisheries and adopting solutions to limit by-catch.

The eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna stock, after decades of intensive overfishing, was the first to be managed under a successful rebuilding plan that was concluded in 2019, with the adoption of a long-term management for this important stock. A new phase has begun with the emerging priority of promoting the most sustainable sources of bluefin tuna in the market and encouraging responsible consumption. For other emblematic pelagic species, recovery plans have been adopted in recent years and, in some cases (the example of Mediterranean swordfish, with high juvenile catches), just after a few years of implementation. The need to review and adjust the measures in place is evident. This project will ensure the continuity of WWF's policy work within ICCAT, thus contributing to the ongoing process of transition of Mediterranean fisheries towards sustainability.

Throughout the implementation of the project, solutions/best practices will be identified to minimize by-catch and post-release survival of pelagic sharks. Once tested, we will aim for these solutions/best practices to be adopted at the regional level, by the relevant RFMOs (i.e. ICCAT and GFCM).