Projects - Cyprus Bycatch Project

Cyprus Bycatch Project

The Cyprus Bycatch Project - Understanding multi-taxa ‘bycatch’ of vulnerable species and testing mitigation - a collaborative approach in Cyprus

The incidental capture of vulnerable species in fishing gear (also known as ‘bycatch’) is a key threat in the Mediterranean Sea for several taxonomic groups, including sea turtles, seabirds, marine mammals, cartilaginous fishes as well as corals and sponges. The term ‘bycatch’ is used to refer to the part of the catch unintentionally captured during a fishing operation (in addition to the target species), and consists of species with or without commercial value. 

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

Data collection on the incidental catch of vulnerable species in the Mediterranean has been lacking and/or carried out using different protocols in different countries. The absence of systematic reporting of vulnerable species captured has made data comparison at a regional level difficult, despite national and international obligations. As a result, observations and reports tend to lack standardization and continuity, making it impossible to understand the scale of the problem across the Mediterranean.   

Furthermore, there is a need for developing efficient mitigation techniques for bycatch of vulnerable species in the Mediterranean and in Cyprus, as well as methods that can be implemented across the different fishing operations and gear used in the wider region. 

Onboard data collection using the GFCM protocol
Small scale fisheries in Limassol, Cyprus

Project actions and results so far

Coordinated by BirdLife International, BirdLife Cyprus, Enalia Physis Environmental Research Centre, the Society for the Protection of Turtles and the University of Exeter embarked on a three-year journey (2017 – 2020) to better understand the problem of bycatch in Cyprus and to develop solutions. 

Funded by the MAVA Foundation, the Cyprus Bycatch Project, is an island wide bi-communal project, aimed at better understanding the issue in Cyprus and making 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. The Cyprus project operates alongside a wider Mediterranean effort to tackle the issue of bycatch in the region. 

Following the standardized protocols of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), and using trained onboard observers and data self-reported by fishermen, project partners carried out research at sea to understand the spatiotemporal distribution of priority species and how these are affected by bycatch. The data gathered showed that turtles and elasmobranch species are the ones taking the heaviest toll from fishing operations and that there is a need to invest even more effort and time on these taxa during the next phase (2020-2022).  

Post 2020 actions and expected results

By 2022, we expect our strong partnership to continue to develop, both among the project partners and with partners in other Mediterranean countries, which will foster continued actions and capacity development in the long term. 

Through policy advocacy, we will continue to work on national policy with the authorities, to ensure that legal frameworks adequately address conservation of vulnerable marine species, guided by the results of our work. This will include working directly with the authorities to ensure that obligations under existing and new EU legislation are fulfilled. Communication campaigns and promotional outreach events will draw attention to the shocking results of Phase I of the projectfurther supporting our advocacy efforts. 

In general, the expected results of Phase II of the Cyprus Bycatch Project are:

  • Adoption of mitigation measures that effectively reduce bycatch of vulnerable species  in Cyprus fisheries 
  • Raised awareness of fishers and other target groups on multi-taxa bycatch through communication and advocacy activities 
  • Capacity building of relevant actors (NGOs, fishers’ organizations, authorities and administrations) 
  • Implementation of pilot projects on sustainable fishing practices 
Elasmobranch bycatch in small scale fisheries in Cyprus

BirdLife Cyprus’ role

BirdLife Cyprus will have the overall lead and responsibility for the management and coordination of the project. We will also pursue actions on engagement with national decision-makers to discuss options for addressing bycatch of vulnerable species, and organise and participate in communications actions and campaigns to raise awareness of the issue of bycatch of vulnerable species. 

(Participation at the BirdLife Photo Exhibition: “Mediterranean: Stuck Between the devil and the deep blue sea” held at the European Parliament in Brussels, February 2020)

The project is funded by the MAVA Foundation and is coordinated by BirdLife International in cooperation with BirdLife Cyprus, Enalia Physis Environmental Research Centre, SPOT and the University of Exeter 

Duration: 30 months (July 2020 – December 2022) 

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