The Mediterranean Sea is today a hub of commerce and travel that connects the world’s nations to each other. Over hundreds of years, millions of people have depended on the Mediterranean’s resources. A new study, published in February 2012 by the peer-reviewed, open access journal Public Library of Science ONE, demonstrates that the Mediterranean Sea is now quickly being depleted of resources, and its previously healthy ecosystems are being wiped out. An international team of scientists led by Enric Sala of the National Geographic Society conducted this study over a period of three years, performing hundreds of dives throughout the sea, in order to monitor conditions in both protected reserves and unprotected sites.
They found that in well-enforced marine reserve areas, the fish populations were 5-10 times greater than the fish populations in many fished-out areas. “We found a huge gradient, an enormous contrast. In reserves off Spain and Italy, we found the largest fish biomass in the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, around Turkey and Greece, the waters were bare, ” said Sala.
The scientists observed 14 protected and 18 non-protected ecosystems and found that fish were able to recover from overfishing much faster than the algal forests could. The work of these scientists provides a way to measure conservation efforts in the Mediterranean and give hope to areas where marine reserves are established. “The protection of the marine ecosystems is a necessity as well as a ‘business’ in which everyone wins,” Sala said. “The reserves act as savings accounts, with capital that is not yet spent and an interest yield we can live off.”
Title: Overfishing the Mediterranean
Author: David A. Gabel
Publication: Environmental News Network
Date of Pub. March 8, 2012
Title: The Structure of Mediterranean Rocky Reef Ecosystems across Environmental and Human Gradients, and Conservation Implications
Authors: Enric Sala, Enric Ballesteros, Panagiotis Dendrinos, et al.
Publication: PLoS ONE vol. 7 no. 2
Date of Publication: February 29, 2012
Student Researcher: Temple Chemotti, Santa Rosa Junior College
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman, Santa Rosa Junior College