The University of Malta’s Conservation Biology Research Group (CBRG-UM) recently contributed six presentations at the second International Fisheries Symposium held in Cyprus. It presented re­search outcomes related to artisanal and recreational fisheries, biodiversity conservation, molecular genetic research applications in better identifying exploited and by-caught species and populations.

The symposium brought to­gether various scientific stakeholders from different parts of the world. It considered research on marine ecology, fish pathology and population health, impacts from various forms of pollution, the difficulties of artisanal fisheries and the improvement of species selectivity by commercial fisheries to reduce by-catch. Aquaculture of new marine organisms and reducing the impact on surrounding habitats was also considered.

Presentations at the symposium highlighted the decline of various targeted species which are valuable to fisheries. This is often due to lack of integrated and well-planned management of concurrent an­thro­pogenic maritime activities, including diverse fishing efforts.

It is clear that Mediterranean native marine life is under serious threat due to increasing pollution by chemicals, plastic, sound and light, resource exploration and extraction, climate change, alien invasive species and larger commercial fisheries activities.

The latter extract diverse species without the necessary best management practices designed around the life-history knowledge gained through research, which reveals conditions under which each species and stock may be carefully exploited without depleting it completely.

Various presentations also considered effective ways of mitigating overexploitation or waste in the fisheries activities. In fact, increasing selectivity of the catch to earmark only specific species of suitable sizes, allowing others to survive and continue to contribute to the marine ecosystem is essential.

Nothing is infinite or indestructible in the Mediterranean, a sea that attracts increasing numbers of tourists, cruising, fishing and trading vessels while also being considered an important global hotspot for biodiversity and spawning area for many species. Without immediate and responsible actions these valuable characteristics may be lost. This loss may be prevented by  working closely with conservation researchers to improve in­teg­rated coastal and international waters management.

CBRG-UM lead scientist and conservation biologist Dr Adriana Vella was invited to be part of the international team composing the symposium’s scientific committee, to chair the whole session on sustainable fisheries and to give the opening session presentation. During the symposium she was also presented an award in recognition of her scientific contribution to this sector.

Dr Noel Vella, a CBRG-UM post-doctoral researcher, and Sandra Agius Darmanin, a Ph.D student supervised by Dr Vella, also presented original research results highlighting how the research group is filling many gaps of knowledge necessary for effective natural resource management.

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