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Rebuilding Mediterranean fisheries: a new paradigm for ecological sustainability


  • Francesco Colloca,

    1. Dipartimento di Biologia Ambientale, Università di Roma ‘La Sapienza,’ P.le Aldo Moro, 00185 Rome, Italy
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  • Massimiliano Cardinale,

    1. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Resources, Institute of Marine Research, 45331, Lysekil, Sweden
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  • Francesc Maynou,

    1. Institut de Ciències del Mar, CSIC, Psg. Marítim de la Barceloneta 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
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  • Marianna Giannoulaki,

    1. Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Institute of Marine Biological Resources, PO Box 2214, GR 71003, Iraklion, Greece
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  • Giuseppe Scarcella,

    1. CNR-Istituto di Scienze Marine, Sede di Ancona, Largo Fiera della Pesca, 60125 Ancona, Italy
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  • Klavdija Jenko,

    1. Department of Fisheries Oceanography, School for Marine Science & Technology, 200 Mill Road, Fairhaven, MA 02719, USA
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  • Josè Maria Bellido,

    1. Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Centro Oceanográfico de Murcia (IEO) C/Varadero 1, Apdo 22. San Pedro del Pinatar, 30740 Murcia, Spain
    2. School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Tillydrone Avenue, AB24 2TZ Aberdeen, Scotland, UK
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  • Fabio Fiorentino

    1. CNR-Istituto per l’Ambiente Marino Costiero, Sede di Mazara del Vallo, V. L. Vaccara 61, 91026 Mazara del Vallo (TP), Italy
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Francesco Colloca
Dipartimento di Biologia Ambientale
Università di Roma ‘La Sapienza’
P.le Aldo Moro
Rome 00185
Tel.: +390649914763
Fax: +39064958259


In Mediterranean European countries, 85% of the assessed stocks are currently overfished compared to a maximum sustainable yield reference value (MSY) while populations of many commercial species are characterized by truncated size- and age-structures. Rebuilding the size- and age-structure of exploited populations is a management objective that combines single species targets such as MSY with specific goals of the ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAF), preserving community size-structure and the ecological role of different species. Here, we show that under the current fishing regime, stock productivity and fleet profitability are generally impaired by a combination of high fishing mortality and inadequate selectivity patterns. For most of the stocks analysed, a simple reduction in the current fishing mortality (Fcur) towards an MSY reference value (FMSY), without any change in the fishing selectivity, will allow neither stock biomass nor fisheries yield and revenue to be maximized. On the contrary, management targets can be achieved only through a radical change in fisheries selectivity. Shifting the size of first capture towards the size at which fish cohorts achieve their maximum biomass, the so-called optimal length, would produce on average between two and three times higher economic yields and much higher biomass at sea for the exploited stocks. Moreover, it would contribute to restore marine ecosystem structure and resilience to enhance ecosystem services such as reservoirs of biodiversity and functioning food webs.