Cyprus Bycatch Project

One of the biggest threats that seabirds are facing is being incidentally killed as ‘bycatch’ in fisheries. In Europe, it is estimated that more than 200,000 seabirds are accidentally caught and killed by commercial fisheries every year. Threatened seaducks are caught in gillnets and shearwaters in longlines, driving these species ever closer to extinction.

Little is known about the scale and the scope of the bycatch problem in Cyprus, especially for seabirds, although incidental capture in fishing gear is an important pressure to threatened species such as sea turtles and the Mediterranean Monk Seal.

Coordinated by BirdLife International, project partners BirdLife Cyprus, Enalia Physis Environmental Research Centre, the Society for the Protection of Turtles and the University of Exeter have embarked on a three-year journey to better understand the problem of bycatch in Cyprus and to develop solutions.


Funded by the MAVA Foundation, the Cyprus Bycatch Project, (“Understanding Mediterranean multi-taxa ‘bycatch’ of vulnerable species and testing mitigation - a collaborative approach”), aims to better understand the issue in Cyprus and make fishing more sustainable by limiting the impact it may have on priority species, and to improve their status by reducing mortality caused by fishing activities.

Our main goal is to understand the magnitude of the bycatch problem on vulnerable species in longline and gillnet fisheries in polyvalent and small coastal fishing boats. The bycatch problem affects various species, including marine mammals, elasmobranchs, seabirds and marine turtles. 

More specifically, our efforts will mostly be concentrated on (but not limited to) seabirds, such as the Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, Audouin’s Gull Larus audouinii, Scopoli’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea, Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan, Mediterranean Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii, Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo and European Storm-petrel Hydrobates pelagicus, cetaceans, such as the Common Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncates, Rough-toothed Dolphin Steno bredanensis, Cuvier’s Beaked Whale Ziphius cavirostris, elasmobranchs, such as the Undulate Skate Raja undulata and the Rough Skate Raja radula, the Mediterranean Monk Seal Monachus monachus, as well as the Green Turtle Chelonia mydas and Loggerhead Turtle Caretta caretta.
 © BirdLife Cyprus

Over the next three years (2017 – 2020), the project aims to develop standardized methods for recording bycatch and develop solutions for implementation. We will carry out research at sea to understand the spatiotemporal distribution of priority species in Cyprus waters and we will use on-board observers, as well as self-reporting by fishermen themselves, to quantify the bycatch problem. We will be following the standardized protocols of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) and feeding into international databases. Based on the data gathered through the project, bycatch mitigation measures will be developed and tested. Through this project, we aim to develop capacity in Cyprus and build trust between bycatch experts and the fishing industry to better tackle the problem and to strengthen the management and governance of fisheries in Cyprus. We will be working with our BirdLife Partners at EU level to advocate for a more sustainable fisheries policy.

Project partners



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