Harvest of Commercially Exploited Fish and Shellfish (EO 3)

Common Indicator 9: Fishing Mortality

Geographical scale of the assessment:
Regional, Mediterranean Sea
Contributing countries:
GFCM Contracting and Cooperating Non Contracting Parties
Mid-Term Strategy (MTS) Core Theme:
2-Biodiversity and Ecosystems
Ecological Objective:
E03: Populations of commercially exploited fish and shellfish are within biologically safe limits.
IMAP Common Indicator:
Common Indicator (CI9).: Fishing Mortality
Indicator Assessment Factsheet Code:

GES Definition: Populations of selected commercially exploited fish and shellfish are within biologically safe limits, exhibiting a population age and size distribution that is indicative of a healthy stock.

GES Targets

  • Pressure: FMSY
  • Pressure: F0.1 a proxy of FMSY (more precautionary)



The indicators of Good Environmental Status of Commercially Exploited fish are quantitative proxies to describe the status of a specific fish stock (i.e. the fish population from which catches are taken in a given fishery) as well as the anthropogenic pressure imposed on it through fishing activities. Those indicators are regularly used in fisheries management to assess the sustainability of fisheries, as well as the performance of management measures (Miethe et al., 2016), by monitoring how far the indicator is from previously agreed targets (i.e. reference points).

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Assessment methods

The complete set of main fishery indicators adopted to assess current status of Mediterranean stocks as well as their temporal trend is reported in the last SAC Report (FAO, 2017). Below are listed the ones, for which a common methodology has been already developed (GFCM, 2017b) and discussed during the meeting of the Correspondence Group on Monitoring (CORMON), Biodiversity and Fisheries (UNEP(DEPI)/MED WG.430/3) as well as the 6th meeting of the Ecosystem Approach Coordination Group (UNEP(DEPI)/MED WG.444/6/Rev.1).

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Results and Status, including trends

In total 78 stocks were considered in this analysis, 11 among them are small pelagic stocks, mainly sardine and anchovy, and 67 are demersal stocks pertaining to 19 different species. According to the indicator of exploitation status (F/FMSY), the majority of examined stocks (86%) are harvested above sustainable levels, while only a minority (14%) of stocks are exploited sustainably. By species groups, the demersal fish suffer the highest overexploitation level. In terms of aggregated stocks at species level, according to the average F/FMSY, almost all the Mediterranean assessed species are subjected to the overexploitation.  Hake is the species subject to the highest fishing mortality: on average, across the Mediterranean, the fishing mortality rate for hake is up to 7 times higher than the target fishing mortality level. Only two species (sprat and picarel) have average fishing mortality rates that are lower than the target, but in both cases the estimate is based on a single management unit and on few stock assessments.

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In the Mediterranean, the majority (around 85 percent) of stocks for which a validated assessment exists are subject to overfishing. Current fishing mortality rates can be up to 12 times higher than the target for some stocks. In general, demersal species suffer higher exploitation rates than small pelagic species, with the latter showing average fishing mortality rates that are lower than the target.

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Key messages

  • The majority of Mediterranean stocks (~85%) are subject to overfishing.
  • Riparian states have recently explicitly recognized overfishing in the Mediterranean as a key challenge in the context of blue growth and food security for coastal communities,

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Brooks, E. N., Powers, J. E., & Cortés, E. (2010). Analytical reference points for age-structured models: application to data-poor fisheries. – ICES Journal of Marine Science, 67: 165–175.

Colloca, F., Mastrantonio, G., Jona Lasinio, G., Ligas, A., & Sartor, P. (2014). Parapenaeus longirostris (Lucas, 1846) an early warning indicator species of global warming in the central Mediterranean Sea. J. Mar. Sys., 138:29–39

FAO (1997). Fisheries Management .FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries No. 4. Rome, FAO.

FAO (2014). General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean, ISSN 2070-6987, Report of the sixteenth session of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Fisheries (SAC) held in St. Julian’s, Malta from 17 to 20 March 2014, Rome, Italy.

FAO (2016). The State of the Mediterranean and Black Sea Fisheries. General fisheries for the Mediterranean. Rome, Italy. 152pp.

FAO (2017). General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean. Report of the nineteenth session of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Fisheries (Ljubljana, Slovenia, 16–19 May 2017) 184 pp.

Fletcher, W.J., Chesson, J., Fisher M., Sainsbury, K.J., Hundloe, T., Smith, A.D.M. & B. Whitworth (2002). National ESD Reporting Framework for Australian Fisheries: The 'How To' Guide for Wild Capture Fisheries. FRDC Project 2000/145, Canberra, Australia. http://www.fisheriesesd.com/c/pubs/index.cfm

GFCM (2014a). Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) - Subcommittee on Stock Assessment (SCSA), Report of the Working Group on Stock Assessment of Small Pelagic species (WGSASP), Bar, Montenegro (28 January – 1 February 2014), 52pp.

GFCM (2014b). First MedSuit Regional Workshop on indicators and targets to ensure GES of commercially exploited marine populations in the GFCM area. Rome, Italy, 6–7 November 2014. 14pp.

GFCM (2016). Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) - Subcommittee on Stock Assessment (SCSA), Report of the Working Group on Stock Assessment of Small Pelagic Species (WGSASP). Rome

GFCM (2017a). GFCM Data Collection Reference Framework (DCRF). Version: 2017. 115pp.

GFCM (2017b). Good environmental status indicators, GFCM:SAC19/2017/Inf.20

Miethe, T., Dobby, H. & McLay, A. (2016). The Use of Indicators for Shellfish Stocks and Fisheries: A Literature Review. Scottish Mar. and Freshw. Sci., 7: 2043-7722.

Tsikliras, A.C., Dinouli, A., Tsiros, V.Z., & Tsalkou, E. (2015). The Mediterranean and Black Sea Fisheries at Risk from Overexploitation. PLoSONE 10(3): e0121188. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0121188.


CORMON              Correspondence Group on Monitoring

DCRF                     Data Collection Reference Framework

E                            Exploitation rate

EcAp                      Ecosystem Approach

GES                       Good Environmental Status

GFCM                    General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean

GSA                       Geographical Sub Areas

F                            Fishing mortality

FMSY                    Maximum Sustainably Fishing Mortality

MSY                      Maximum Sustainable Yield

RFMO                    Regional Fisheries Management Organization

SAC                       GFCM Scientific Advisory Committee on Fisheries

SAFs                      Stock Assessment Forms

SoMFi                    The State of Mediterranean and Black Sea fisheries

SSB                        Spawning Stock Biomass

STECF                   European Union Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries

TL                          Total Landing

WGSAs                  Working Groups on Stock Assessment

YPR                       Yield per Recruit

For more information please visit the GFCM website: