General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM

Understanding Mediterranean multitaxa bycatch of vulnerable species and testing mitigation – a collaborative approach | Medbycatch project

The incidental capture of vulnerable species in fisheries (also known generically as bycatch) represents a key conservation issue in the Mediterranean for a number of taxonomic groups, namely sea turtles, marine mammals, seabirds, elasmobranchs and macrobenthic invertebrates. Necessary measures should be taken to minimize and mitigate negative anthropogenic impacts on marine biodiversity, especially in relation to these vulnerable species and to ecosystems. The adoption of such measures requires comprehensive knowledge of the extent of the problem. Typically, data on this issue have been collected in a haphazard manner, at local levels, rendering comparisons between studies difficult. Consequently, though bycatch represents an intense pressure on these species and a threat to fisheries in the region, little is known of the scale and scope of the problem.

Therefore, robust monitoring is crucial to better understand the consequences and distribution of incidental catch events in fisheries. Technical solutions for given fishing gear and/or taxa need to be implemented to reduce such threats. Reliable information and reporting, active stakeholders and efficient measures will allow scientists and decision-makers to obtain a more complete overview of the situation and set priorities for management action. These conditions will support the protection of vulnerable species while securing the profitability of fisheries and the sustainability of coastal livelihoods.




Monitor and mitigate incidental catches of vulnerable species and reduce fishing impacts and pressures on marine habitats and species


Phase 1: Sept. 2017 - Jun. 2020

Phase 2: Jun. 2020 - Oct. 2022


Croatia · Italy · Morocco · Tunisia · Turkey



➜ Fishers

➜ National administrators

➜ Policy-makers

➜ Researchers


Building on complementarities of partners’ respective mandates, while joining resources and expertise and striving for best practices and replicability, the Med bycatch project aims to:

  • Address knowledge gaps regarding the bycatch of vulnerable species occurring during fishing operations in the Mediterranean through a more systematic and standardized approach to data collection and capacity-building.
  • Identify, and support the testing of, mitigation measures to reduce incidental catches and/or mortality of vulnerable species.
  • Raise awareness on the issue of bycatch and provide bases for the formulation of national/regional strategies to reduce incidental catches, preserve vulnerable species and support the sustainability of fisheries.

Phase 1: Main outputs

  • Publication of the protocol on Monitoring the incidental catch of vulnerable species in Mediterranean and Black Sea Fisheries: Methodology of data collection, ensuring a common approach to the monitoring of incidental catch of vulnerable species across the region. This methodology ensures minimum common standards for the collection of data on these species and allows for replications and comparisons among fisheries across the region, thus offering a harmonized basis of knowledge, information and evidence for decision-making.

  • Training and capacity-building activities on data collection, identification and handling of vulnerable species, including formation of national teams of on-board observers and of fishers on self-sampling methodologies. National multi-taxa bycatch observation teams have been trained in Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey.

  • Data analysis on the impacts of fleet segments on the incidental catch of vulnerable species, and the spatial and temporal distribution of incidental catches for the selected fleet segments.

  • Identification of the typology and a quantitative assessment of current fishing practices pertaining to these fisheries that lead to incidental catch (e.g. fishing area, seasonality, carrying capacity of the vessels, market).

  • Awareness and advocacy initiatives on the impact of the incidental catch of vulnerable species, leading to a better understanding of the scale of the problem and increasing engagement and action

  • Testing of mitigation measures, including implementation and monitoring of possible methods and tools in identified fisheries and focus countries

  • Publication of an Identification guide of vulnerable species incidentally caught in Mediterranean fisheries, as well as an adapted version for countries to provide a manual for any future approach in their region.

  • Creation of a Pan-Mediterranean multi-taxa database, containing data on bycatch of vulnerable species in the region. This will make data more accessible and inform efforts to address the issue at the regional level.

  • Publication of the Review on Incidental Catches of Vulnerable Species in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, establishing a baseline for bycatch in the region and identifying existing gaps. It will represent an important basis for informing and prioritizing future efforts on bycatch in the region.





Understanding and addressing bycatch: key steps for sustainable fisheries





Monitoring incidental catch of vulnerable species in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea: methodology for data collection

Methodology for data collection




Phase 2: Expected results

Phase 2 has expanded the geographical scope of the project to include Croatia and Italy and has strengthened collaboration through an additional partnership with WWF to capitalize on its ongoing work on bycatch in these countries. Phase 2 will build on the success and momentum from Phase 1 and focus primarily on:

  • Informing and influencing policy developments related to the bycatch of vulnerable species at national and regional levels.
  • Building the capacity and support of fishers for measures to address the bycatch of vulnerable species.
  • Promoting the project approach, deliverables and results to encourage replication across the Mediterranean.

We will also continue to collect bycatch data as a means to maintain and develop relationships with fishers as well as recognize that the data collected in Phase 1 is not sufficient to provide a comprehensive understanding of the problem of bycatch of vulnerable species in the targeted fleet segments.


Trials of mitigation measures, focusing on those taxa that emerged as most impacted from our observation programmes and regional review, will be conducted in Phase 2.




Steering Committee

Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic area (ACCOBAMS)

General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM)

Specially Protected Areas Regional Activity Center (SPA/RAC) of the United Nations Environment Programme/Mediterranean Action Plan (UN Environment/MAP)

International Union for Conservation of Nature – Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation (IUCN-Med)

BirdLife Europe and Central Asia (BL ECA) Project Coordinator

Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles (MEDASSET)

World Wildlife Fund (Mediterranean Marine Initiative)

Scientific Committee

Juan-Antonio CAMIÑAS (sea turtles)​
Vero CORTÉS & Rory CRAWFORD (seabirds)​
Vasilis GEROVASILEIOU (corals & sponges)
Ayaka Amaha ÖZTÜRK (cetaceans)​
Jacques SACCHI (gears and mitigation measures)
Fabrizio SERENA (elasmobranchs) 


Groupe de Recherche pour la Protection des Oiseaux au Maroc (GREPOM)

Association Les Amis des Oiseaux (AAO)/BirdLife Tunisia

Sea Turtle Research Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (DEKAMER)

Doğa Derneği/BirdLife Turkey
Turkish Marine Research Foundation (TUDAV)

World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF-Turkey)

WWF North Africa (Tunisia)

LIPU and WWF Italy


GFCM’s role in the project

Within the Med bycatch project, the GFCM ensures the interaction between vulnerable species and fisheries is closely monitored, guaranteeing the sustainability of project activities. It is responsible for the development, training and application of the standard methodology for data collection; recruits and oversees the work of the national focal points in the focus countries (ultimately responsible for project implementation at the national level); compiles the regional review on incidental catches of vulnerable species; develops and hosts the database that will contain all the data collected throughout the project, contributes to the identification of mitigation measures, data analysis and the post-2020 strategy for bycatch.


Ms Margherita SESSA
Fishery liaison officer

Fishery resources monitoring specialist

With the financial support of :