The third GAP2 Adriatic Trawl Survey was carried out in August 2014, at the end of the Summer fishing ban. The results of this activity, along with previous results from GAP2 independent and dependent fisheries, were presented at a FAO-ADRIAMED meeting. This, in turn, inspired the establishment of a working group focused on the trawl-fishing ban. Dr. Saša Raicevich describes what the GAP2 Italian case-study have been working on and found out…
Third GAP2 Adriatic trawl survey (2014)
At the end of August 2014, during the Summer fishing ban, Italian GAP2 scientists and fishermen carried out the third Adriatic Trawl Survey in the Veneto Region Administrative Waters.
The Summer trawl fishing ban (a management measure that was enforced in Italy in the ‘80s and usually lasts about 30-40 days from late July to early September) was adopted as a tool to reduce mortality of juvenile target species, which usually recruit throughout this period. GAP2 fishermen criticized the efficacy of this management measure several times, stressing that juveniles are also caught before and after the fishing ban, and therefore proposed to increase its duration (at least from mid July to mid September).
In order to provide quantitative evidence to test the effectiveness of such a measure and to also identify the presence and spatial distribution of juveniles, a fishery-independent survey (i.e. otter-trawl survey) was carried out at the end of the fishing ban period, from 2012 to 2014.
Each survey lasted 3 days and was allowed to sample 21 stations within the Veneto Region Marine Administrative waters (between 4 to 22 NM from the seashore).
On Saturday the 6th September 2014, between 09.30-12.00, Dr. Saša Raicevich presented the results from the data collected during these three years of sampling at the third annual meeting “Fisheries resources in the Veneto Region Administrative Waters”.
The meeting, organized in collaboration with the Fishery Office of Chioggia, was held at the Town Hall and was attended by fishermen and other stakeholders such as fishery cooperative representatives, the director of the fish market, local authorities, scientists from ISPRA, and the University of Padua, and journalists from the local press. Moreover, the meeting was also attended by representatives from the Veneto Region fishery office (responsible for fisheries management the province of Venice and the Vice Mayor of Chioggia, who is also responsible for the local fishery office).
During the meeting, data on catches (kg/h), species, size composition, and environmental conditions (sea-bottom temperature and salinity; river Po discharge, etc.,) for 2012, 2013 and 2014 were present, allowing for a comparison between these three years of sampling.
Moreover, for the first time, data on marine litter (collected in collaboration with the IPA Adriatic project DEFISHGEAR, www.defishgear.net) was collected and also presented. This issue had previously been pointed out by Chioggia’s fishermen. They had identified litter as a potential source of danger and an additional obstacle for fishing activities.
The results obtained suggested that 2014 was characterized by a particular environmental scenario (with exceptional spring-summer rainfall, increased river flow, high temperatures and low salinity in the shallow southern waters) which may have promoted higher productivity within the entire system. This evidence supports the increased individual growth rates and the anticipation and extension of some species’ spawning periods. Moreover, recorded catches of juveniles were low (especially of red mullet) which has led us to suppose that juveniles were concentrated in inshore areas, which are not accessible to sample.
With regards to marine litter, there was on average of 13 kg of waste for every 100 kg of commercial catch, with plastics being the main component.
Discussion with the audience was focused around the period of the fishing ban. Indeed, the GAP2 results based from 2012-2014 suggest that the Summer fishing ban should be anticipated and possibly delayed by 15 days. This is in order to ensure a higher level of protection for the juveniles of commercial species and in turn, more efficient exploitation of resources when returning to sea.
It is worth mentioning that the Veneto Region Fishery Office, a few days after the meeting, declared to the press that data like that collected by ISPRA (in the framework of GAP2) is relevant to help further define the rules of the discard ban. This is a clear sign that, at the policy maker level, the GAP2 framework, and the experience gained from this, is being taken into account.
FAO-ADRIAMED working group on fishing ban
The GAP2 data (consisting of both survey data and fishery-dependent information) was presented during a meeting at the 2013 FAO Adriamed project, which was held in Kotor (Montenegro). The findings from the data stimulated a discussion about the efficacy of the current Adriatic fishing ban, which encouraged participants to establish a working group focused on this topic.
A year later, in October 2014, the WG met at the FAO headquarters in Rome. Several presentations were given about different areas and countries surrounding the Adriatic Sea, including a comprehensive overview of the GAP2 results in the Italian Case Study.
On this occasion the GAP2 scientists reported the results from trawl surveys, the electronic logbook, from onboard observers, and the outcomes of a 2013 questionnaire. The questionnaire was submitted to 100 fishermen from the Veneto Region, and was focused on the appropriateness of the “Summer fishing ban”. Moreover, in preparation for this meeting, the GAP2 team conducted a focus group on the “Summer fishing ban” which included fishermen and stakeholders that are actively involved in the sampling activities at Chioggia.
The focus group allowed for us to gather the opinions and proposals from GAP2 fishermen. It emerged from the interviews that the duration of the ban is considered too short. The majority of fishers who look favorably upon the temporary fishing closure stated the importance of its extension. This investigation into fishers’ opinions, along with the full range of data presented at the Adriamed WG meeting, was appreciated.
Furthermore, the GAP2 participatory approach in itself and the findings obtained from field activities received much interest and attention. According to the meeting, Adriamed WG agreed on putting forward a detailed report containing evidence supporting the effectiveness and possible revision of the fishing ban (this will be discussed further at WG level and, later on, at the FAO GFCM general assembly). GAP2 scholars are now collaborating in extending the report, including not only their evidence for the effectiveness of the temporary Summer fishing ban, but also its historical implementation, rationale, and evidence/research assessing the value of such a measure. These analyses will be merged with similar literature and overview of legislation carried out within Adriamed (by other researchers belonging to the South and Eastern Adriatic Sea).
The GAP2 group will formally involve the Northern Adriatic Sea Fishery District in the revision of the Summer fishing ban, where we will be asking to endorse the request of its extension. Informal contact with different local regional administrations has already started.
Whilst it is not taken for granted that this request will be accepted in the short or medium term (because there are also several issues to be considered that go beyond the will of the GAP2 group) it is clear that this process has allowed for an increase in the knowledge-base in the setting of management practices., At the same time, this knowledge has the value of having been built in joint collaboration between scientists and stakeholders.
This result is also relevant since it has the merit of allowing fishermen to enter into the management discourse providing ideas, proposals and data.
This experience of the revision process with regards to the fishing ban, which was triggered by GAP2 activities, represents an important achievement of Italian GAP2 case study.
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 AdriaMed “Scientific Cooperation to Support Responsible Fisheries in the Adriatic Sea” is an FAO Regional Project. It is funded by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies (MiPAAF) and since 2007 by the European Commission. The Project aims in promoting scientific cooperation among the Adriatic countries (Republics of Albania, Croatia, Italy, Montenegro and Slovenia), in line with the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (UN-FAO). For further info see: www.faoadriamed.org