Key Services that MER offers include:
- Fisheries Management (a wide range of services that include: fisheries monitoring, recovery of endangered species, population assessments, ecosystem impact analysis and mitigation, marine protected areas, etc.)
- Fish Biology (data collection and statistical analysis, food chain interactions, evaluation of population dynamics of wild fish stocks, age estimation using otolith and spine methods etc.)
- Fisheries discards and alien invasive species (data collection and statistical analysis, evaluation of projected environmental and socio-economic impacts, design and implementation of mitigating methods)
- Fisheries ecological impact assessments
In Cyprus, there is evidence of systematic exploitation of marine resources since humans first inhabited the island’s coast. The diet of Cypriots was restricted to fish that were captured using fishing tools made from bones. Murals (wall-paintings) found in caves verify the existence of hand-made fishing nets. Through the passage of time, Cypriots incorporated new food resources through agriculture and farming. Fishing activities have not ceased but instead expanded. New types of fishing vessels and tools were manufactured that resulted in increased catches and access to better fishing grounds. The technological development of the sector, kicked in during the 19th century. The fishing processes were for the first time, industrialized and the gradual fish decline an inevitable consequence.
Currently the Cypriot fishing fleet includes vessels that carry out small, large scale and pelagic fisheries, and two trawls that activate in the national and international waters. All fishing activities must be carried out in accordance with National and International Regulations (e.g. the EU Common Fisheries Policy). The Department of Fisheries and Marine Research (DFMR) of Cyprus is responsible for issuing all licenses and ensuring that all regulations are followed. The Cypriot small-scale fishery is multi-species and accounts for a large proportion of the commercial species that exist in the market. Common species sold in the local market include Spicara smaris, Boops boops, Mullus spp., Epinephelus spp., Diplodus spp, Thunnus thynnus, Sepια οfficinalis, Octopus sp. etc.
For sustainable fisheries to subsist; it is critical that fishing stocks, population dynamics of commercial and related species are extensively researched and monitored. The exponential growth of human activities is placing a heavy load on the fishery sector. Climate change, loss of important habitats and pollution, overexploitation, and invasive species have adverse impacts on wild fish populations. Alien marine organisms introduced in the Mediterranean Sea have in some cases caused severe problems to fisheries and local populations of other species. For example, Lagocephalus sp., an Indo-Pacific species, has caused serious problems to fishermen and fishing stocks of Cyprus. CIESM keeps lists of recorded alien species found in the Mediterranean Sea.
The decline of our fish stocks is evident. The proof comes directly from observations of veteran fishermen. This decline is credited mostly to overfishing of marine resources which is a global and well documented phenomenon. According to FAO, 11 of the world’s 15 most important fishing grounds and 60% of major fish species are diminishing. In the Mediterranean Sea, the populations of blue fin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) have declined and the scientific community attributed the reduction to overfishing. Increased catches may be due to the fact that more efficient and equipped fish vessels are now used.
There are many other important issues to consider when evaluating our fishing tactics. For example, fishery discards that are defined as “the portion of the total organic material of animal origin in the catch, which is thrown away, or dumped at sea for whatever reason” (FAO, 2005), have been found to negatively affect the marine environment, fishery resources and sector. There is an urgent need to estimate the quantities that are being discarded at local, national and international scale and evaluate the population dynamics of related species, as well as, other ecological impacts.
We think it is of great significance to research the above and in addition take direct measures to allow for the gradual recovery of our fish stocks. A good start could be increasing public awareness and establishing many protected areas where fishing activities would be forbidden. This has been very successful in other countries where highly productive protected areas act as fish nursing grounds, enriching neighbouring sites. The need for scientific research and governmental measures is evident to ensure the sustainability of the sector and the conservation of fish populations.
MER can offer professional prompt, reliable and high quality consulting fisheries services to the government, harvesters, processors, fishing organizations, businesses, aquaculture companies and other institutions worldwide.