Overfishing Poses Serious Hazard to Black Sea Fish Populations
Fish stocks in the Black Sea are dwindling and commercial fishing is causing more and more environmental damage, causing concern that has grabbed the attention of NGOs and EU lawmakers.
Mackerel stocks are critically endangered in the Black Sea, and all sturgeon and herring species are threatened. Among mammals, the monk seal has disappeared and the common dolphin is among the vulnerable species.
This worrying picture has been described in the report “Bulgarian fisheries and aquaculture in the Black Sea – economic importance, environmental impact and natural factors influence” published by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in cooperation with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAN).
In the European Parliament, Bulgarian MEP Ivo Hristov, a member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), also warned about the overfishing in the Black Sea. He stressed that all species except the sprat are at risk.
“The Black Sea is close to the so-called red line, behind which the process of ecosystem degradation could become irreversible,” warned Dr Radoslava Bekova from the Institute of Oceanology of the Bulgarian Academy of Science (BAN) and author of the study.
She added that industrial fishing has the greatest impact, as it directly destroys a significant proportion of the populations of certain species.
The data clearly shows that more than 50% of the seabed under 100 meters depth suffers from significant abrasion due to illegal harvesting of sea species.
When compared to the Mediterranean – which in the past has been considered by the UN as the world’s most over-fished body of water – the situation in the Black Sea looks even more concerning. Less than 10% of the plants and animal species living in the Mediterranean basin are present in Bulgaria.
“Major problems are the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which reduces fish stocks, destroys marine habitats, distorts competition, puts fishermen at a disadvantage and weakens coastal communities”, Dr Bekova added.
The worrying trends are also highlighted in a 2015 European Commission report. At that time, Brussels officials noted that 74% of fish stocks in the Black Sea were either over-exploited, fully exploited or destroyed and only 17% recovered after they had been damaged. However, no concrete actions followed.
Fortunately, there is still hope that adequate measures can be taken. In mid-May, the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries (PECH) adopted a report by the Bulgarian MEP Hristov on “Challenges and opportunities for the Black Sea fisheries sector”.
In his report, the MEP highlights that stocks in the Black Sea are overfished and calls for urgent action to be taken to address the issue./EURACTIV
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