The Mediterranean Sea isn’t the source of plenty it once was. It now contains some of the most ecologically degraded marine areas in the world, and has been the site of dead zones and fish stock collapses in recent decades. Populations of countless species are in decline, including sharks, seagrasses and marine mammals. The sea is “on the verge of ‘burn out,’” WWF has declared.
Overfishing and destructive fishing practices, including bottom trawling, are part of the problem. Bottom trawlers drag fishing nets weighted down with heavy “doors,” and they often damage the seabed, destroying coral and sponge habitats, and catch unintended species at a high rate. Conservationists have pushed the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs) and no-trawl zones, but these are only effective if managed and regulated well, and reports in recent years have indicated that, in the Mediterranean, this isn’t the case.