The incidental capture of vulnerable species in fishing gear (also known generically as ‘bycatch') is a key threat in the Mediterranean Sea for several taxonomic groups, including sea turtles, seabirds, marine mammals, cartilaginous fishes as well as corals and sponges. The term ‘bycatch’ is used to refer to the part of the catch unintentionally captured during a fishing operation (in addition to the target species), and consists species with or without commercial value.
Data collection on the incidental catch of vulnerable species in the Mediterranean Sea has traditionally been carried out using varying protocols at different geographic scales. The absence of systematic reporting of vulnerable species captured has made data comparison at a regional level difficult, despite national and international obligations. Observations and reports tend to lack standardization and continuity.
Furthermore, there is a need for developing efficient mitigation techniques for multi-taxa bycatch of vulnerable species in the Mediterranean, as well as methods that can be implemented for different fishing operations and gear used in the region.
The project aims to support Mediterranean countries, specifically Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey, to develop a common standardized methodology to collect data and test mitigation solutions that can be replicated at the regional level.
The project focuses on three demersal fishing gears: trawls, gillnets and longlines. In addition, data will be collected on purse seine bycatch in Morocco.
The main objectives of the project include:
Creating knowledge and baseline information on vulnerable marine species affected by multi-taxa bycatch
Raising awareness of fishers and other target groups
Capacity building of relevant actors for implementing sustainable fishing practices
Implementing demonstration projects on sustainable fishing practices
Contributing to the development of a Mediterranean Strategy/Action Plan 2020-2030
To date, workshops preparing the bycatch monitoring programme and the implementation of the observation program in collaboration between the different national and international partners as well as local stakeholders have been organized. 61 onboard observers in Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey have been trained to gather data on board fishing vessels, and data collection continues. Over 3200 port-based questionnaires have also been carried out since the initiation of the project.
Regional reviews of incidental catch, communications campaigns, engagement with the fishing industry as well as capacity building of local NGOs are among the project actions currently in process.
In the final stages of the project, the data collected within the observer program will be analyzed and reported. Workshops with stakeholders in Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey will be held in 2020 to collect input for the design of the mitigation trials and measures to be tested during a later phase of the project.
The data collected within the project will help to address the current deficiencies in the collection of data from Mediterranean medium and small scale fisheries and help to develop a Mediterranean Strategy/Action Plan 2020-2030.
Standardized data collection on vulnerable species affected by unsustainable fishing practices and incidental catch (multi-taxa ‘bycatch’)
Tested mitigation measures that effectively reduce multi-taxa bycatch through regional collaboration
Raised awareness of fishers and other target groups on multi-taxa bycatch through communication and advocacy activities
Capacity building of relevant actors (NGOs, fisher organizations, administrations)
Implementation of demonstration projects on sustainable fishing practices
Development of Mediterranean Strategy/Action Plan 2020-2030
IUCN-Med’s responsibilities in this project include: (i) the edition of the Identification Guide of Vulnerable Species Incidentally Caught in Mediterranean Fisheries, (ii) providing experts on sharks, rays, sponges and corals, (iii) policy-making and (iv) producing communications products.
IUCN-Med also has an important role as a collaborating partner who supports the implementation of activities within the scope of the project (e.g. onboard observation program and training workshops).
The project is financed by MAVA, and builds on the cooperation between Birdlife International (as coordinator), ACCOBAMS, GFCM, IUCN-Med, MEDASSET and SPA/RAC.
Duration: 33 months (October 2017 – June 2020)