MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT
AND ENERGY SECURITY

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The projects

Sharklife - Protecting sharks in the Mediterranean Sea

The importance of Mediterranean sharks and rays was highlighted by the IUCN report: 2007 Red List-Assessment of the Conservation Status of Cartilaginous Fishes (Chondrichthyes) in the Mediterranean. This study states that although the Mediterranean is a semi-enclosed sea, it is home to a diverse chondrichthyan fauna with about 80 species, including 45 species of sharks. Italy, due to its strategic location in the heart of the Mediterranean, is home to 43 species of sharks. The IUCN report presents evidence that the region has the highest percentage of threatened sharks and rays in the world. Forty-two percent of the 71 species assessed are listed on the Red List of Threatened Species (in the Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable categories) due to their conservation status. The main threat to their survival is fishing, both professional and sport fishing, in several countries bordering the sea, and particularly in Italian seas.

Project objectives:

The main objective of this project is to contribute to the implementation of community policies and regulations on biodiversity. In line with the European Cartilaginous Fish Action Plan approved in 2009, this project aims to contribute to the conservation of cartilaginous fish, and in particular basking sharks and purple stingrays,-in Italian seas by reducing mortality caused by professional and recreational fishing activities.

The life cycle of sharks and rays, unlike most other fish species, is very slow. They grow slowly, reach sexual maturity later in life, have low fecundity levels, long gestation periods, and usually produce low numbers of offspring. These characteristics make them particularly vulnerable to intensive fishing, which does not allow the species to replenish its population quickly.

Sport fishing, a widespread activity along the Italian coast, has a strong impact on some species such as blue shark and thresher shark, rays, both in the number of animals caught and because it often catches juveniles.

Planned actions:

In order to achieve the desired goal, according to the Logical Framework Approach

the following actions are planned:

ACTIONS A.1, A.2, A.3, A.4:This group of preparatory actions is dedicated to agreement among project beneficiaries, planning of activities, consultation with stakeholders, and production of the national action plan for cartilaginous fish;

ACTIONS C.1, C.2, C.3, C.4:these are concrete conservation actions, regarding the promotion of low-impact purple stingray fishing devices (circle hooks), the development of a system to reduce bycatch of basking sharks, the implementation of a tag & release policy for sport fishing competitions, and specific training activities for fishermen, veterinarians, and coast guard personnel deputized to monitor fisheries;

ACTIONS D.1, D.2, D.3, D.4, D.5, D.6, D.7:activities dedicated to raising public awareness, training and dissemination of project results. Various communication tools are planned (exhibits, information panels, informational brochures and leaflets, etc.) tailored to different target audiences and, in particular fishermen, children and the general public.

ACTION D.1:is dedicated to the training and awareness of fishers and consists of a series of seminars and workshops, production of promotional materials such as stickers, T-shirts, caps, etc;

ACTION D.2:is aimed at creating in the public a common level of environmental awareness about sharks and marine biodiversity. This action includes the creation of an exhibition dedicated to sharks, which will be displayed in aquariums and science museums including Rome, Bologna and Salento. Other permanent thematic exhibitions will be displayed in national parks and marine protected areas (Maddalena National Park, Asinara National Park, Pelagie Islands Marine Protected Area).

ACTIONS D.3, D.4, D.5, D.6:These actions include developing a website, updating it periodically, participating in seminars and conferences, and organizing a European Congress dedicated to the dissemination of results.

ACTION D.7:is dedicated to promoting the project and its results through the media.

ACTIONS E1, E4, E3, E4: This group of actions is dedicated to managing the project and monitoring its progress, and developing the Post-Life Communication Plan. These activities include various methods and means to ensure that the project is managed in compliance with LIFE + obligations and in line with the project proposal.

They also include networking activities (E.3.) AND external audit (E.4).

Expected outcomes:

With the implementation of these actions, the following results are expected:

(a) An 80 percent reduction in catches of the purple newt, Pteroplatytrygon violacea, through the use of circle hooks;

(b) A 100 percent reduction in all elasmobranch catches during sport fishing competitions through the implementation of the Tag & Release policy;

(c) a marked reduction in catches of some elasmobranch species due to both innovative fishing devices to reduce bycatch and the promotion of Tag & Release among sport fishers;

(d) the adoption of a specific action plan for the conservation of elasmobranchs;

(e) Development of an innovative system for reducing bycatch of basking sharks and other large pelagic species that could be promoted on a large scale;

(f) increased consensus among fishermen and local people about conservation policies and sustainable use of marine resources;

(g) raising awareness of biodiversity issues among the general public.

The project, co-funded by the Ministry of the Environment and Asinara National Park, is the first European project dedicated to shark conservation in the Mediterranean. The large number of qualified partners such as CTS – environmental association with extensive experience in marine species conservation and information and awareness actions – FIPSAS (Italian Federation of Sport Fishing and Underwater Activities, Italian Federation of Fisheries and Underwater Activities), AGCI Agrital, CIBM (Italian Center for Marine Biology) and La MaddalenatesTIMATES the interest of ensuring adequate conservation measures of cartilaginous fish through a systemic approach that can integrate the skills and knowledge of various stakeholders.

Source: CTS Student and Youth Tourism Center, Nature Conservation Sector. Albalonga street n.3 – 00183 Rome . e-mail: conservazionenatura02@cts.it