The joint project, “Understanding Mediterranean multi-taxa bycatch of vulnerable species and testing mitigation: a collaborative approach” (the Medbycatch project) is a partnership between the ACCOBAMS, the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Specially Protected Areas Regional Activity Centre (SPA/RAC) of the United Nations Environment Programme/Mediterranean Action Plan (UN Environment/MAP), the International Union for Conservation of Nature – Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation (IUCN-Med), BirdLife International (BLI) and MEDASSET – Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles.


    Funded by the MAVA Foundation over a three-year period (2017–2020), the project aims to address the gaps in knowledge regarding the bycatch of vulnerable species species –elasmobranchs, sea turtles, marine mammals, seabirds and macrobenthic invertebrates – during fishing operations in the Mediterranean, support the potential testing of mitigation measures and eventually provide elements for the formulation of national/regional strategies to reduce incidental catches and support the sustainability of fisheries.


    Project implementation involves field observation programmes (on-board, at landing site and through self-sampling) across different fishing gears (i.e. bottom trawls, gillnets and demersal longlines), together with training, awareness raising, and identification and testing of mitigation techniques.

    Although it is being implemented in three Mediterranean countries (Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey), it also develops tools and builds knowledge applicable to the entire Mediterranean and Black Sea area.


    In this context, a harmonized data collection on incidental catches of vulnerable species is in line with a standard regional multi-taxa data collection methodology, allowing for replication across different areas, eventually leading to appropriate solutions for the whole region.

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    The Project Steering Committee oversees the proper and effectively coordinated project implementation, while the Project Scientific Committee provides technical feedback and scientific advice. It is composed of project partners, national focal points, as well as one international expert per taxon (cetaceans, macrobenthic invertebrates, elasmobranchs, seabirds, sea turtles) and one international expert on fisheries aspects (fishing gears, in particular).

    The project is implemented in Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey. In these countries, a Project Focal Point was officially appointed through GFCM to ensure the proper coordination of the activities at the national level. ACCOBAMS, SPA/RAC and MEDASSET were appointed to ensure the coordination between the different national partners and project partners.



    The National Partners implementing the project at country level are:


    Focal point: Sana EL ARRAF



    Focal points: Mohamed Mourad BEN AMOR and Mohamed Nejmeddine BRADAI



    Focal point: Meltem OK



    Surveys at sea

    In the three countries, the fisheries monitoring programme has started in March-April 2019 to collect data on incidental catch of vulnerable taxa (elasmobranchs, sea turtles, marine mammals, seabirds and macrobenthic invertebrates). The monitoring programme relies on on-board observations and port questionnaires. Self-reporting methodology is also tested in a the most collaborative and interested fishers are identified. The monitoring programme can be summarized as follows:

    The data collected are gathered in a regional database managed by GFCM for the project. At the end of the surveys the data will be analysed at the national level and, as much as possible, at the regional level to compare the results among the different countries. Data analysis will be performed with the support and guidance of the experts of the project Scientific Committee.


    Monitoring methodology

    An important achievement of the project is the development of a standardized data collection protocol. The common data collection methodology developed within the project aims to ensure a consistent and an efficient standardized data collection and monitoring system across the countries for all vulnerable species encountered in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. This methodology includes guidelines for on-board observations, questionnaires at landing sites and self-sampling activities. It ensures minimum common standards for the collection of data on the different species and allows for replicability and comparisons among fisheries across the region, thus offering a harmonized basis of knowledge, information and evidence for decision-making. This protocol and related methodology was developed consistently with existing instruments and regulations in place at GFCM level (i.e. the Data Collection Reference Framework and existing binding recommendations) as well as other relevant instruments (e.g. the EU Data Collection Framework).


    Training of on-board observers

    In each country, the national partners identified the observers to be part of the monitoring programmes, taking into consideration their experience as regards fisheries monitoring programmes and their knowledge of vulnerable marine species. Five-day trainings were organized for the observers in 2018 with the support of international and national experts. The sessions covered the following topics:

    • Presentation and use of the data collection methodology
    • Vulnerable species affected by incidental catches (species identification, information to be collected in case of incidental catch and guidelines on how to handle and release bycaught individuals)
    • Characterization of the fishing gears/operations and their interactions with vulnerable species
    • Building relationship with fishers and security on-board fishing vessels

    Practical sessions on board of fishing vessels were also organized so that the observers could practice data collection in real conditions.


    Awareness campaigns

    Several awareness raising activities on the incidental catches of vulnerable species are implemented in the three countries, for example:

    • Photo exhibitions are (or will be) organized to highlight the incidental catch issue
    • Factsheets are developed for each country with information on the legal and technical contexts related to fisheries management, bycatch data collection and conservation of vulnerable species
    • Dedicated meetings/conferences/roundtables are organized at the national level involving the competent authorities to raise awareness among decision makers on the incidental catches issue

    Activities aimed at engaging the EU to promote the project and specific deliverables such as the protocol and the GFCM database (e.g. developing a brief on the Protocol) are also carried out.




    According to one of its main objective related to increased knowledge on the impacts of fisheries on the marine ecosystem and biodiversity more in general, the following publications have been published within the framework of the Medbycatch project:

    FAO. 2019. Monitoring the incidental catch of vulnerable species in Mediterranean and Black Sea fisheries: Methodology for data collection. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 640. Rome, FAO.

    This publication and the methodology contained herein aim to provide a framework for the development and implementation of an efficient, standardized data collection and monitoring system for all vulnerable species encountered in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, namely elasmobranchs, marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles, and macrobenthic invertebrates.

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    Otero, M., Serena F., Gerovasileiou, V., Barone, M., Bo, M., Arcos, J.M., Vulcano A., Xavier, J. (2019). Identification guide of vulnerable species incidentally caught in Mediterranean fisheries. IUCN, Malaga, Spain, 204 pages.

    The guide with the species descriptions has been developed to provide observers on board fishing vessels and fishers with identification assistance and general information about vulnerable species potentially caught as bycatch. Each species description contains photographs, illustrations and narrative descriptions to highlight important anatomical structures and features of a particular species.

    Download the PDF