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Din l-Art Helwa on the threat to swordfish – A message to all

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Din l-Art Helwa on the threat to swordfish - A message to allFollowing the highly successful ‘Fished Out’ Conference earlier this spring, Din l-Art Helwa has put its views to the Ministry of Resources and Rural Affairs responsible for agriculture and fisheries that regulations be enacted and enforced that will protect swordfish. The NGO said that “It appears that this species is in greater danger now of being overfished than tuna because there is little or no legislation regulating its catch, while it is encouraging that quotas for the catch of Atlantic blue fin tuna, should, if respected over the coming years, ensure the sustainability of this species.”

Din l-Art Helwa said, “Maltese fishing statistics show that, over the past few years, the overall weight of swordfish catch has not decreased. There are, however, no statistics that refer to the number of fish being caught but only to the total weight landed. This leads to the perception that there is no problem with swordfish stocks while it becoming evident that a greater number of smaller immature fish are making up this weight. In fact it is perceived, also by other international NGOs, that especially this year a large number of immature swordfish is being caught as can be seen when visiting any fishmonger shop.” Din l-Art Helwa went on to say it is “concerned that there is inadequate international legislation aimed at regulating swordfish fishing and has asked that this be updated with urgency under the forthcoming updating of the EU Common Fisheries Policy. This Legislation should also protect the artisan fisherman who very much depends on this and other fish for a livelihood and is suffering because of the enforcement of unjust EU fishing quotas. Failing this, these same fishermen will be out of a job in the next few years because there will not be any more fish to catch.”

“Malta has always played a lead part in legislation on issues relating to the sea, and in the opinion of Din l-art Helwa, there is an opportunity again for the island to show leadership by acting as a prime mover for the protection of this and other important species, “Din l-Art Helwa said.

“There is substantial lack of information on the conservation status of nearly one third of Mediterranean marine fish which are assessed as Data Deficient – cerna, sargu, shark, merluzz, octopus and others. However, the worst fact is that the last assessment for swordfish was carried out by the IUCN in 1996, a good 15 years ago. As for other important species such as tuna, the threat to swordfish, especially in view of the lack of information about its stock, does not only constitute a threat to the existence of the food source but also to the biodiversity of the region,” the NGO contiuned.

Overall, more than 40 fish species found in the waters between southern Europe and northern Africa could disappear within the next few years unless governments act to enforce regulations, reduce quotas and create new marine reserves.

Five prominent environmental NGOs – Din l-Art Helwa, Greenhouse, Nature Trust, Sharklab and GetupStandup continue to work together to form ‘Fish4Tomorrow,’ in an awareness campaign and a local endeavour aimed at a local problem, overfishing, that has got out of hand. The campaign seeks to generate awareness within the local consumer market to promote and nurture a culture of sustainable eating with regards to fish stocks.

Din l-Art Helwa concluded by saying, “the campaign encourages everyone as responsible members of society to eat responsibly. Din l-Art Helwa urges everybody, now that the summer season has set in, to spread the word. Baby Swordfish, sold in Malta as a delicacy both in fish shops and in restaurants should not be purchased or eaten to allow these to mature and therefore be able to reproduce. Baby Swordfish should only be…food for thought.”

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