Traps are selective fishing gear that preserves the catch alive and intact until it’s pulled out of the water, that do not destroy habitats and that are harmless if lost at sea… There are many types of traps, whether traditional or modern, specific in size, shape, material and species targetted. Once popular for catching crustaceans, gastropod molluscs or other species, their popularity has been eroded in favour of less fragile and more efficient fishing gear.
But fishing with trap still remains interesting, and for several years, the prud’homie (association) of fishermen of Bonifacio in cooperation with the authorities (Office de l’Environnement de la Corse – OEC) work together on experimental trap fishing campaigns, especially in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), to assess whether it would be appropriate to reintroduce this fishing gear.
It is precisely the types of tests that the Strait of Bonifacio Natural Reserve (RNBB) is currently running in the framework of the FishMPABlue2 project, a project of the Interreg Med Programme of the European Union. The aim of this project is to test a set of measures in the field to improve the governance of small-scale fisheries in Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas.
The RNBB is one of the 11 European MPAs involved in this project. Each one is tasked with selecting the measures that seem relevant to them in view of their specific field issues and to define and implement a calendar of activities to test them. This work, called the Pilot Project Implementation Plan (PPIP), is done in agreement with the fishermen in the area.
At Bonifacio, the PPIP focuses on 2 key measures: 1) Promote sustainable fishing 2) Encourage the engagement of fishermen with regular fisheries meetings
One of the priority objectives of the OEC is to ensure that Small Scale Fishers benefit from conservation measures that result from the establishment of an MPA such as RNBB. As managing authority of the RNBB, the OEC has been actively cooperating with the Prud’homie of Bonifacio fishers since 1999 in the framework of the fish stock management of the Strait of Bonifacio. Since 2000, the partnership has been implemented through the provision of services between OEC and the fishers of the Bonifacio Prud’homie, enabling them to participate in various studies carried out in the Reserve for the management of the fish stock. The 38 fishers of Bonifacio are represented by the Prud’homie of Bonifacio in the Advisory Committee of RNBB.
Various campaigns and projects have been carried out in the framework of this partnership, often with great results and sometimes with difficulties. During a meeting held at the end of 2016 between the managers of the Reserve and the representatives of the Prud’homie, a request was made to the OEC to set up an experimental fishing campaign (fish traps) in Bonifacio in 2017 and 2018. This expectation will be met through the FishMPABlue2 project, which smooth running may help to regain the confidence of the fishers who no longer wanted to join the OEC / Prud’homie Bonifacio partnership in recent years.
Measures to be tested in the framework of the FishMPABlue2 project
Measure 1: promote sustainable fishing
The OEC will carry out a pilot study on the cost-effectiveness of different types of traditional fishing traps, in collaboration with the professional fishers operating in the RNBB.
The objective is to give small scale fishers new perspectives by alternating fishing methods and thus reduce the pressure on the most targeted stocks. This initiative also aims at restructuring the fisheries in order to redirect efforts towards species (conger, moray, grey sea bream, etc.) that deserve to be further promoted among local populations as well restaurant owners or tourists. It thus responds to a request from professional fishers for a better management of the fish stock in collaboration with the managing authority.
Indeed previous studies at the RNBB demonstrated that certain types of lobster traps (the DREZEN traps for example) are instrumental in catching certain fish species of high commercial value (adult fork-beard cod, red scorpionfish, red porgy etc.). These traps were therefore diverted from their original purpose and used to capture fish. But what about traditional traps? What types of species other than lobster can they catch? This is what the FishMPABlue2 pilot project intends to examine.
In the framework of the FishMPABlue2 project, 25 traditional rush (juncus) traps were made to order in Sardinia and distributed in the 4 harbours of the RNBB. In each harbour, 5 partner fishers were able to use the traps for a defined period (approximately 5 days) in order to allow each one to test this gear on their own boat. Catch records were provided by the fishers each time they set and retrieved the gear.
The campaign was set to be run during the entire 2017 summer season but delays in the delivery of the traps reduced the testing time to a month and a half in autumn, which is not enough time to produce valuable data. So in order to continue collecting data, the fishers and the RNBB just decided to continue the testing of traps during the 2018 fishing season (March to November). In addition to the 25 traditional traps already tested in 2017, 14 new ones will be built by a local fisher and distributed to the various harbours. Other types of traditional traps intended for example to capture mollusks such as whelks and murex will also be tested. Upon fishers’ request, this phase could help the Prud’homie to promote this traditional know-how with local fishers mastering this technique and willing to pass it on to the younger generations.
The data analysis will be done in 2018 in order to have a large enough sample comparable with the Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE) of the nets for the same periods.
This 2018 campaign is being implemented through service agreements set between the OEC and the professional fishers operating on RNBB. These agreements are funded by the FishMPABlue2 project.
This campaign is run in parallel of another data acquisition project that unfolds on the whole Corsican territory. This DACOR project (Données hAlieutiques CORses), run from April 2017 to November 2020 and funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, aims to improve knowledge on the Small Scale Fisheries of the island for a better recognition of the specificities of these fleets with the European authorities in charge of fisheries management.
Mesure 2: Fishermen engagement and participation
Regular meetings will be organised throughout the project between fishers and the Reserve. The Reserve will invite fishers to attend meetings where the activities of the Reserve, including the FishMPABlue2 project, will be presented. It is planned to organise at least one meeting every 6 months until the end of the project in 2019. Two have already taken place (in March 2017 and in March 2018).
It is also planned to give the opportunity to fishers and / or their representatives to participate in 2018 to one or more regional meetings in the Mediterranean Sea.
It is also planned to give fishers and / or their representatives the opportunity to participate in one or more Mediterranean region meetings in 2018, in order to consolidate the ability of small-scale fishers to represent the voice of small-scale fishing in the Mediterranean and in Europe
The FishMPABlue2 project is a project of the Interreg Mediterranean Programme of the European Commission. It is 85% co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund. The project has a duration of 3 years, from November 2016 to October 2019 with a budget of 3.5 million euros. It includes 8 partners (Federparchi, MedPAN, CoNISMa, WWF Adria, University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, WWF Mediterranean, IUCN Mediterranean and APAM) and 6 associated partners (GFCM, MedWet, the French Agency for Biodiversity, SPA/RAC, the Institute of Republic of Slovenia for the protection of nature, the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment).
 These traps were ordered by the MedPAN organisation which coordinates the participation of RNBB to the FishMPABlue2 project.