Technology saving stingrays in the Mediterranean Bluefin tuna fishery

SATHOAN French bluefin tuna artisanal longline and handline fishery

Amount awarded: £46,316

This project aims to harness innovative technology to better understand how stingrays may be affected by fishing activity in the SATHOAN French Mediterranean Bluefin tuna artisanal longline and handline fishery.

The fishery was first certified in 2020 and catches 473 tonnes annually. The Producer Organisation, SATHOAN, manages more than 60% of the French quota for bluefin tuna.

Scientific assessments have shown significant and constant increases in the population, leading to a transition from a recovery plan to a management plan. The Atlantic bluefin tuna was subsequently recategorised from Endangered to Least Concern on the IUCN Red List in September 2021.

As a condition of certification – timebound improvements the fishery must make to retain certification – the fishery must take steps to understand its impact on unwanted catch species, in particular pelagic stingrays (Pteroplatytrygon violacea). Stingrays are vulnerable due to their slow growth, late sexual maturity and are a common unwanted catch of longline fisheries. Though stingrays are released, it's unclear how many survive.

What the project is doing

The MSC Science and Research Fund will support the fishery’s RAYVIVAL project that involves tagging 38 stingrays to monitor their survival. It will also help uncover more information about their biology and ecology and validate visual sightings recorded on the company’s smartphone ECHOSEA © application.

Other tools and support

Several innovative tools and platforms have been devised to improve the fishery’s practices through scientific research. For example, hooks that automatically release incidental catches which are controlled through a smartphone app.

The Ocean Stewardship Fund project benefits from scientific support from the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER Sète) in the Mixed Research Unit MARBEC and the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS Montpellier). RAYVIVAL is also actively supported by WWF France, which are also part of other collaborative research projects with the fishery.

The ECHOSEA © application will connect the data collected with the fisheries information system, so that presence of stingrays can be compared to the fishing vessel activity in real time. The results will be shared with industry, stakeholders and other scientists to prevent unwanted catch in other longline fisheries.

There is currently relatively little data on pelagic rays in the Mediterranean - the data collected is important both for the sustainable exploitation of marine resources and the conservation of sensitive species. There can be no sustainable fishing without taking conservation issues into account.

Bertrand Wendling, Chief Executive SATHOAN

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