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Commercial Fishing


Europe-wide project working collaboratively with fishers

EU LIFE-funded project CIBBRiNA (Coordinated Development and Implementation of Best Practice in Bycatch Reduction in the North-East Atlantic, Baltic and Mediterranean Regions) has embarked on a fully collaborative programme working to minimise the bycatch of Endangered, Threatened and Protected (ETP) marine mammals, seabirds, turtles, sharks, skates, and rays.

Funded by the EU LIFE programme and formed of stakeholders from 13 European countries, CIBBRiNA is using cross-border and cross-sectoral collaboration to establish mitigation, monitoring, and assessment programmes in a selection of fisheries with a risk of bycatch of Endangered, Threatened and Protected species. These fisheries are found in the North-East Atlantic, Baltic, and Mediterranean regions.

Since its kick-off meeting in September 2023, CIBBRiNA has been at work laying its foundations for success. Among the project’s first key outputs is a strategy that will guide the project’s approaches to stakeholder engagement and communication. The Strategy has been shaped by members of the fishing industry, social scientists, and partners from a range of other backgrounds, as well as a cross-sector Stakeholder Advisory Board. Together with CIBBRiNA’s Code of Conduct, the strategy underpins the project’s ethos of fostering a participatory working environment characterised by mutual trust, respect and cooperation.

The “engine” of CIBBRiNA will be its eight case studies. These span a rich variety of fishing operations, from small to large-scale, using a variety of gear types, including gillnets, surface and deep-water longlines, pelagic trawls, and bottom trawls. Skipper Matthias Stam, who is involved in a CIBBRiNA case study on pelagic trawls in the Celtic Sea and Greater North Sea ecoregions, expressed his hope that collaborating through the project would help fishers “to reduce incidental bycatch even further, and all the way down to zero, through great innovations.

CIBBRiNA’s work with these fisheries is driven by a collective understanding that minimising Endangered, Threatened and Protected species bycatch offers social and economic benefits as well as conserving healthy and biodiverse ecosystems – for example, by helping to prevent damage to or loss of nets, and contributing to the safety of fishers.

There is no doubt that addressing the bycatch of ETP species is a vital ingredient of sustainable fishing and to guarantee the future of resilient marine ecosystems, but it requires committed collaboration between all actors,” said Katie Longo of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). “As chair of CIBBRiNA’s Stakeholder Advisory Board, I’m delighted to see the launch of the Stakeholder Engagement and Communication Strategy and the project’s applied case studies taking shape.”

Recognising that measures to reduce bycatch must be workable for fishers in order to be effective, CIBBRiNA partners will pool their collective knowledge and expertise and work closely with fishers to: build on know-how from existing successful approaches; refine and test the most promising measures; and improve our understanding of the socio-economics behind bycatch mitigation. Ultimately, CIBBRiNA will deliver a toolbox of context-specific solutions that are practical on the water, achieve policy goals for European fisheries management, and guide international best practice.

Niels Hintzen, Chief Science Officer at the Pelagic Freezer-trawler Association (PFA) – one of CIBBRiNA’s partners – commented: “The fishing industry has already been active in finding ways to reduce bycatch of ETP species, testing different gear improvements and learning from one another. CIBBRiNA provides us with the opportunity to cooperate on bycatch mitigation in a fair manner with other stakeholders, in a relationship built on trust.”

CIBBRiNA launched on 7 September 2023 and will run until the end of August 2029. It is coordinated by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) and involves 45 partners, which span a wide variety of sectors such as the fishing industry, government ministries, research institutions, and eNGOs. For more information, follow CIBBRiNA on LinkedIn and X (@CIBBRiNA), or go to www.cibbrina.eu.