General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM

Regional research programme for rapa whelk fisheries in the Black Sea

The rapa whelk is a non-indigenous species originating from the western Pacific, first observed in the Black Sea in 1947. Since then, the population of this gastropod has become established and expanded greatly, representing a significant revenue source for Black Sea countries, particularly for small-scale fishers.

Exported in large quantities to its native east Asia, the rapa whelk is currently fished close to its maximum sustainable limit – and in 2021 it was found to be in possible overexploitation. Previous efforts to curb or even eradicate its population have thus evolved into policies to manage the exploitation of the stock, to ensure long-term yields and sustain the multimillion-dollar market developing around it as well as the livelihoods it supports.

The regional research programme on rapa whelk fisheries in the Black Sea was established by Recommendation GFCM/42/2018/9 and launched in 2019, under the coordination of the BlackSea4Fish project.



  • Conduct studies on size, genetics, density, abundance, biomass, recruitment, growth, reproduction, physiology interactions with other species, environmental parameters influencing the rapa whelk lifecycle, preferred habitats and feeding behaviour.
  • Carry out standardized scientific beam trawl surveys-at-sea to collect information on rapa whelk biomass and abundance and on its size/age distribution in all Black Sea countries.
  • Conduct biological sampling of catch, bycatch and fishing effort, at landing ports and through onboard observers.
  • Investigate the methodologies used for assessing the status of rapa whelk, including through the compilation of historical data.
  • Carry out socio-economic surveys to develop economic indicators and understand external factors affecting the fishery and its economic sustainability.
  • Test the effects of possible management measures through management strategy evaluation (MSE).


Learn more about the GFCM's research programmes.