IEO and AZTI researchers assessed the exploitation status of small gear fisheries in the Balearic Islands
- A team of researchers assessed the exploitation status of small gear fisheries in the Balearic Islands, for the first time considering most modes and target species of this fishery.
When analyzing data recorded over the past 25 years, the scientists found that the fleet operating in this area has been halved, but landings have remained relatively stable.
The study was conducted by researchers of the Balearic Oceanographic Centre of the IEO and AZTI, in collaboration with experts from the Balearic Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and the General Directorate of Fisheries and the Marine Environment of the Government of the Balearic Islands.
In European waters, approximately 75 per cent of commercial fishing vessels are engaged in small gear fishing activities. However, this fleet has received little attention compared to industrial trawling and purse seine fishing. However, in the Mediterranean there is great interest and need to achieve viability of small gear fishing through sustainable exploitation of its resources because of the great social and economic importance that this fishery has traditionally had.
In the present study, small gear fishing in Mallorca (Balearic Islands) was analysed using landing statistics in the last 25 years, between 1990 and 2014. The analysed results show that although the size of the fleet has been reduced by 55 per cent, landings have remained relatively stable.
This could be related to different reasons, such as a decrease in unreported catches, market stagnation and/or improvement and increased in the fishing capacity of the fleet due to technological advances and the increasing number and dimensions of the fishing gear used, which has resulted in an increase in fishing effort.
The analysis reveals that small gear fishing is engaged in the capture of up to eight target species: lobster, dolphinfish, whitebait, squid, mullet, cuttlefish, sea bream and scorpion fish. Together, these eight species represent 52 per cent and 71 per cent of the landings of this fleet, in terms of catches and income, respectively.
Fisheries of these species are highly seasonal and landings of most of them show significant fluctuations, but no clear temporal trend.
Although it has traditionally been seen that small gear fishing had a minor impact on the resources than other fishing modes, the assessments carried out in this work reveal a general pattern of overexploitation, especially in the case of higher value commercial species.
The bio-economic models show that a reduction in fishing effort of 38 per cent would improve the stock capture status, while increasing the current economic profit by 15 per cent.
If all fishery resources had to be below their maximum sustainable yield (MSY), and thus it would be possible to correct overfishing to which they are subjected, the reduction in fishing effort should be 53 per cent. The simulations also show that to maximize the economic performance of the fishery it would be necessary to reduce fishing effort by 28 per cent.
Experts suggest that management measures necessary to correct this situation should not contemplate further reductions in fleet so as not to endanger the viability of the sector. The need arises to implement other technical measures, such as limitations of fishing time and dimensions and in the gear and equipment characteristics, without neglecting the improvement in traceability and marketing of catches so as to increase its first sale value and reduce unreported catch rate.
“Despite the overfishing pattern observed, it is necessary to be cautious with these figures. Due to the significant amount of unreported catches of the species having the greatest commercial value, and the fact that the abundance of some species such as the goby may be also influenced by environmental factors, in addition to fishing, the model results regarding stock status and bio-economic simulations should be used only as an indicator of general trends in this fishery,” points out Antoni Quetglas, first author of the study.
This research has received funding from the Seventh Framework Program of the European Union (FP7/2007-2013), through Maximising yield of fisheries while balancing ecosystem, economic and social concerns project -of acronym MYFISH-, composed of 31 partners from 11 European countries.