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Sunset on the sea with 3 fishermen in the water
Tunis, Tunisia

Preserving Tunisia’s Marine Ecosystems: The Rise of Sustainable Fishing

Tunisia’s coastline boasts a rich marine biodiversity, but years of overfishing have taken a toll on its fish populations. Today, the country faces the challenge of balancing the economic benefits of fishing with the need to protect its marine ecosystems.

One solution is sustainable fishing, which involves fishing practices that ensure the long-term viability of fish populations and minimize harm to the environment. Tunisia has made progress in this direction, with the government implementing measures such as restricting fishing during breeding seasons, promoting the use of selective fishing gear, and enforcing fishing quotas. This has been regulated in the Law of September 28, 1995. 

However, challenges remain. One major obstacle is illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which undermines efforts to promote sustainability. In addition, many fishermen still lack the awareness and resources to adopt sustainable practices, and some are resistant to change. Although the existing laws, Illegal fishing, and trawling are still significant problems in Tunisia. Trawling, a fishing method that involves dragging a large net along the ocean floor, is also a destructive practice that can harm marine habitats and result in high rates of bycatch, the unintentional capture of non-target species, and cause ghost fishing by cutting the nets of other fishermen. 

To address these challenges, Tunisia needs a multi-faceted approach. This includes strengthening enforcement against illegal fishing by respecting and enforcing the law, providing education and training to fishermen on sustainable practices, and incentivizing sustainable fishing through policies such as subsidies for eco-friendly fishing gear.

Tunisia’s sustainable fishing journey is not an easy one, but it is a crucial step towards preserving its marine resources and securing a sustainable future for its fishing communities. As consumers, we can also play our part by choosing sustainably sourced seafood and supporting Tunisia’s efforts towards a more responsible fishing industry.

We went to meet Islem Ben Ayed, a fisheries science engineer and trainer to tell us more about sustainable fishing and the various actions to be taken urgently to protect the Mediterranean sea and the income of small fishermen.

Sustainable fishing is still a complex challenge that requires a collaborative effort between governments, fishermen, and consumers. With the right policies, education, and incentives, Tunisia can chart a course toward a more sustainable and prosperous fishing industry.

This story was produced with support from Internews' Earth Journalism Network. It was first published in BlueTN on 26 April 2023. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity. BlueTN is one of the Mediterranean Media Initiative media partners. 

Banner image: Sunset in Sfax, Tunisia, 2021 / Credit: Sirine Kh via Unsplash.