Sharing Experiences on Bycatch in ACCOBAMS and ASCOBANS Areas

Bonn, 15 February 2021 - The First Meeting of the Joint Bycatch Working Group of ACCOBAMS and ASCOBANS took place from 10 to 12 February 2021.  One hundred and fifty participants from 34 countries took part in the meeting organized online.

The meeting was opened by Isabelle Terrier, Head of the Marine Environment Assessment and Protection Office in the French Ministry in charge of the environment, as France would have hosted the originally planned face-to-face meeting if it wasn't for COVID-19 pandemic.

It was particularly important for France to see the two agreements joining forces, as our country is part of both and bycatch is of major concern for us, especially small cetaceans in the Bay of Biscay.  We value international cooperation to tackle this issue. [...] We have integrated the 1% threshold of anthropogenic mortality, from ASCOBANS resolution, into our regulation implementing MSFD (as GES threshold and environmental target) for common porpoise and dolphin in the Atlantic subregion, therefore we are compelled to succeed. [...] But cooperation is the key of success.

Isabelle Terrier, the French Ministry in charge of environment, in her opening remarks

Day 1 and Day 2 of the meeting were open to observers, which brought in 130+ people outside the Working Group, following presentations and participating in the discussions.  Co-chairs of the Working Group started the series of presentations on Day 1: Ayaka Amaha Öztürk gave an overview of the bycatch situation in the ACCOBAMS Area (Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic Area) and Peter Evans described the bycatch problem in the ASCOBANS Area (Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas).

The review of the situation in the Mediterranean and Black Sea was completed by Paolo Carpentieri (General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean, GFCM) who presented the main results related to incidental catches of vulnerable species from the 2020 GFCM State of of Mediterranean and Black Sea Fisheries report. Vincent Ridoux (University of La Rochelle, France) and Katarzyna Kaminska (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Poland) reported on the ICES Special Request Advice regarding the emergency measures to prevent bycatch of common dolphin in the Bay of Biscay and harbour porpoise in the Baltic, including recent updates on the process.  Relevant provisions related to bycatch were also introduced by Susana Salvador (ACCOBAMS), Jenny Renell (ASCOBANS), Kenneth Patterson (European Commission), Miguel Bernal (GFCM) and Darius Campbell (North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission). 

Case studies from both Agreement areas were then presented to support exchange of knowledge and sharing of experiences on approaches to bycatch monitoring and mitigation measures.

Regarding review of approaches to bycatch monitoring and mitigation measures, case studies from ACCOBAMS area included:

  • Cetacean interactions with Algarve coastal fisheries - by Ana Marçalo
  • Understanding Mediterranean multi-taxa bycatch of vulnerable species and testing mitigation - by Celia Le Ravallec and Paolo Carpentieri
  • Fisheries-related mortality of bottlenose dolphins in Slovenia; and Evaluating active disentanglement of small cetaceans as mitigation tool - by Tilen Genov
  • Bottlenose dolphin bycatch in Adriatic mid-water trawlers: lessons learned - by Caterina Fortuna
  • The status of cetaceans in the Aeolian Archipelago - by Monica Blasi
  • Project on cetacean distribution and abundance -, noise -, and bycatch monitoring in the Black Sea - by Marian Paiu
  • Monitoring of cetacean bycatch and testing pingers in Bulgarian turbot fishery in the Black Sea - by Dimitar Popov

Case studies from ASCOBANS area on review of approaches to bycatch monitoring and mitigation included:

  • Bycatch assessment work through ICES and OSPAR working groups - by Kelly Macleod
  • Improving understanding of why cetacean bycatch happens and what it means - by Al Kingston
  • REM of porpoise bycatch in Dutch bottom-set gillnet fisheries - by Marije Siemensma
  • Underwater explosions and underwater noise as possible causes for harbour porpoise bycatch - Ursula Siebert
  • Current work conducted in the Bay of Biscay - Hélène Peltier and Stéphanie Tachoires
  • Review of approaches to bycatch mitigation; and Overview of the Scottish EMFF entanglement project findings - by Fiona Read
  • The slow evolution towards a more porpoise friendly fishery policy - by Arne Bjørge
  • Bycatch mitigation studies in the Swedish Baltic - by Sara Königson
  • Welfare impacts of bycatch - by Sarah Dolman

The meeting was also briefed on the planned SCANS IV (Small Cetaceans in European Atlantic waters and the North Sea) survey project, and on the development of a EU LIFE proposal for an international bycatch project covering the North East Atlantic and the Baltic Sea, with linkages recommended to projects in the Mediterranean and Black Sea   All the presentations will be made available on the meeting page, pending permission from the presenters. 

At the end of Day 2, the meeting drafted recommendations, for example on undertaking regional and sub-regional cooperation projects/programmes, and encouraging to increase current sampling levels in order to achieve better bycatch estimates.  Day 3 was dedicated to the Working Group members, to elaborate on their Programme of Work for 2021 and 2022.  The work plan, recommendations, and the meeting report will be posted on the meeting page in due course.

The Secretariats of ASCOBANS and ACCOBAMS would like to thank the Co-Chairs and the Working Group members and all the participants for an interesting meeting, and look forward to working with all stakeholders to reduce and mitigate incidental catch of cetaceans in both Agreement areas.


Last updated on 15 July 2021

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Species group: 
Marine mammals