Fishers & scientist working together for sea urchin stock preservation

Fishers & scientist working together for sea urchin stock preservation image #1

The MEDFISH (MSC -WWF) project seeks to accompany Mediterranean fisheries towards greater sustainability, in particular by using the MSC standard as a diagnostic tool for fisheries.

After a 1st step consisting in mapping all the fisheries in Spanish and French coasts, it was decided together with the local stakeholders, the fisheries for which they wished to go further. Thus, in the second phase, 9 French fisheries entered MSC pre-assessment. These pre-assessments allowed fisheries to identify the challenges to reach further sustainability. For example, for the sea urchin, major gap in the biological data was identify. Some stock assessments are being undertaken but in various and precise areas, and are never pooled together, maintaining this lack of knowledge for the stock and its evolution.

A participatory workshop was organized in order to co-construct an action plan for the sea urchin fishery, in collaboration with all the stakeholders, including a dozen of professional fishermen. During this workshop, all the scientific structures that have been carrying out a biological assessment of the stock for years (more than 20 for one national marine park), in different marine protected areas or coastal zones of the Gulf of Lions, have thus decided to pool their protocols and results, in order to provide a trend of the evolution of the stock on the scale of the French coast, but also to elaborate tools and a method to carry out a relevant assessment in the future years

On the strength of this decision, the fishers proposed to join the scientists in order to carry out complementary monitoring, based on the voluntary declaration of their catches. These declarations will be made according to the calculation of CPUE (catches per unit of effort) and thus the number of sea urchins taken per hour (or per meter square, or per minute spent underwater, etc.). This decision will be made in due course. This will be developed in areas that are already covered by scientific assessment in order to compare and complete these results. 

Following this workshop, the medfish team gathered the scientists in a specific workshop, together with the University of Perpignan, to discuss the next steps, to know: the recruitment of an internship starting 2022, and hopefully a PHD student during summer 2022. 

All this work could allow the sea urchin fishery to benefit from a long lasting stock assessment, of the global population, to then be able to implement adequate and local management measures to move towards greater sustainability