Elasmobranch Low Impact Fishing Experience (ELIFE)

5 years (October 2019 – October 2024)

Funded by:
LIFE Programme – Nature and Biodiversity (European Commission)

Project partners:
Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn – Italian National Institute for Marine Biology, Ecology and Biotechnology
UNIPD (Università degli Studi di Padova – Dipartimento di Biologia)
Soft (Softeco Sismat)
AMPIP (Area Marina Protetta Isole Pelagie – Ente Gestore Comune di Lampedusa e Linosa)
Legambiente (Legambiente Onlus)
CNR-IRBIM (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche – Istituto per le Risorse Biologiche e le Biotecnologie Marine/Italian National Research Council – Institute of Marine Biological Resources and Biotechnology)
AMPT (Consorzio di Gestione dell’Area Marina Protetta di Tavolara-Punta Coda Cavallo)
MER (Marine & Environmental Research (MER) Lab Ltd)
CMed (Consorzio Mediterraneo)
CE (Costa Edutainment S.p.A.)

Project Description:
Since the mid-1980s, chondrichthyans (cartilaginous fish) have been under growing pressure from fishing in the Mediterranean Sea mainly as a result of incidental by-catch. Despite some recent efforts to reduce shark by-catch and mortality (i.e. adoption of the European Commission’s Action plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks), the EU goals are far from being achieved.

The project LIFE ELIFE aims at improving the conservation of elasmobranch species (sharks and rays) by promoting best conservation practices in EU professional fishing in the Mediterranean Sea, including both bottom trawl and longline fishing. The project will carry out pilot and demonstrative actions in the Italian harbours of Chioggia, Gallipoli, Lampedusa, Cir Marina/Porto Cesareo, North Sardinia, Marsala, Mazara del Vallo and Pelagie Islands and Cyprus and aims at turning commercial fishers towards low-impact fishing devices that decrease elasmobranch by-catch.

Additionally, the project will support marine management authorities in Cyprus, Greece and Italy by providing the latest data for assessing the status of shark species and will support fishers in fund raising activities (e.g. grant applications) to adopt sustainable practices. Mediterranean fishers will therefore enhance their role in marine biodiversity conservation.

The project also aims to transfer good practices for shark by-catch mitigation and lowering mortality to other Mediterranean countries and to increase the awareness of people and stakeholders about the value and vulnerability of the elasmobranchs; thus promoting a more sustainable fishing and responsible fish consumption.

LIFE ELIFE will contribute to achieving the European Commission goals through conservation actions on shark species listed in the European Red List of marine fishes (IUCN, 2015), in accordance with the EU Action Plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks; the aims of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (in particular, Descriptor 1 biodiversity and Descriptor 3 fishery); the European Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 (targets 1, 4, 6); and of the Regulations 1380/2013 and 72/2016. The project is also consistent with the 7th EU Environment Action Programme, the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive, and several international conventions on marine conservation, biodiversity and migratory species.

We are confident that the project can become a milestone for the elasmobranchs conservation in the Mediterranean and we are happy to collaborate with a range of specialists from Italy to identify the best-sustainable fishing practices, monitor catches and mortalities, and guide management of these important but highly vulnerable and threatened species.