Citizens of the sea
These are the artisanal shers of the Mediterranean, strong men and women who work on the waves.This is a sea of fragile treasures.
These pictures tell two sides of their story. First, they’re a window into an ageless way of life – traditional shers doing what their families have always done, embracing a shared heritage across the Mediterranean that still plays an important part in coastal cultures today.
But they also warn of the end of an era: these pictures could be documenting the last generation of small- scale shers we’ll ever know. In an ancient sea pushed to its limits by modern pressures, their future is hanging on a knife-edge.
Over shing, pollution, climate change – these are powerful, growing forces and they threaten the Mediterranean Sea and the shers who depend on it. Soon, unless things change rapidly and radically, there may be no more sh and no more shers.
It doesn’t have to end like this. Across the region, shers and conservationists are ghting to protect the Mediterranean Sea. It’s not an impossible task – it’s an essential one. Coastal sheries really do have the potential to become sustainable.
These photos were taken in and around 11 Marine Protected Areas in six countries, where shing is restricted or banned completely – but instead of reducing catches, these measures increase local stocks of the many different species which sustain artisanal shers. Across the Mediterranean, Marine Protected Areas are a central pillar supporting long-term efforts to maintain the sea’s biodiversity and ecosystems.
Fishers can play a vital role in the management of Marine Protected Areas, working closely with conservationists on many activities, from data collection to surveillance: collaboration gets better results. And the ones with an eye on tomorrow aim for sustainability in everything they do: they don’t catch more than they need, they don’t take out more than the stocks can bear – they know they have to catch sh next year, too.
Put like that it sounds so easy, but life at sea is never easy.There are so many minds still to change, so
much still to do. Nobody doubts that putting the small-scale sheries of the Mediterranean on the road to sustainability will need huge collective commitment from shers, governments, scientists and conservationists – and they’ll need us, the consumers, to support them too, choosing sustainably caught sh and telling our families and friends why it matters.
Spread the word: this is a future worth ghting for.