By Lewis Smith
Bottom trawling is to be banned in three areas off Sicily amid “historic” moves to rebuild the population of the “most overfished” creature in the Mediterranean Sea.
Conservationists hailed the decision by the General Fisheries Committee for the Mediterranean (GFCM) as a “key step” in restoring hake numbers to healthy levels in the region.
The three areas that will be closed to bottom fishing between Italy, Malta and Tunisia are important nursery areas for hake.
Closure of 1,493km2 of the Mediterranean to bottom trawlers is also designed to preserve deep sea rose shrimps. The area accounts for 60 per cent of catches of the shrimp.
Oceana, an organisation that campaigns for marine conservation, originally proposed the closures in 2015 and described the decision by the GFCM as a “milestone”.
“The closure of an unselective fishery of an area in the Strait of Sicily as big as Mexico City will have a positive impact in the recovery of key stocks in the Mediterranean”, said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana in Europe.
“We are happy that Mediterranean States have taken this steps to set up a subregional plan and recover shared overfished stocks.
"This is a true milestone in fisheries management in the Mediterranean Sea. We hope this is a first step towards a long-term success story in the region.”
Further measures agreed by the GFCM are intended to protect coral reefs, sponges and other deep sea creatures.
Picture: hake. Credit: Oceana