Demersal stocks in the Mediterranean are affected by overfishing and a poor exploitation pattern with high juveniles fishing mortality and high production of discards. To improve this status, the Common Fishery Policy (CFP) foresees the implementation of an Ecosystem-based Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) whilst ensuring that exploitation rates of living marine biological resources are able to restore and maintain populations of harvested species above levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield (MSY). To increase the productivity of the stocks and their profitability, a key requirement is to rebuild the size- and age-structure of exploited populations by shifting the size of first capture towards larger sizes. However, in the case of the trawl fishery, a noticeable increase in the mesh size of the cod-end would be required to substantially increase the size at first capture of species like hake and red mullet. This could lead to negative implications on the catch rate of associated small-sized commercial species (e.g. shrimps). A possible management alternative would be the reduction of the mortality rate of juveniles by protecting the areas/habitats were they aggregate, through the implementation of marine managed areas (MMAs).

In this context, a spatial-based approach to the management of fishing effort which (i) minimises the impact of trawlers on areas where juveniles of commercial species concentrate and (ii) protects the habitats that play key roles for recruitment and spawning processes (Essential Fish Habitat - EFH), can achieve similar and more effective management targets to those usually linked to mesh size regulations.

Considering this background, the main objectives of MANTIS are:

The main objectives of the project are to

  1. review and integrate the knowledge produced in previous national and EU funded projects on the space-time dynamics of fisheries resources and on Ecosystem Approach to Fishery in the Central Mediterranean;
  2. investigate how a network of marine managed areas (MMAs) can contribute to improve sustainable fisheries in the Central Mediterranean focusing on two case studies, the Strait of Sicily and the Northern Adriatic.

The proposed approach should allow to reconcile also the conservation needs, linked to the protection of Essential Fish Habitats (e.g. nursery and spawning areas) and sensitive habitats (seagrass meadows, coralligenous habitats, maerl beds), with the objective of enhancing both the economic and ecological sustainability of fisheries. To achieve these objectives MANTIS’ activities are organised into 5 Work Packages (WP). Analyses will be carried out within two case studies, each consisting of four target species, representative of different biological life traits in the Strait of Sicily (Parapenaeus longirostris, Merluccius merluccius, Mullus barbatus, Aristaeomorpha foliacea) and the North and Central Adriatic (Solea solea; Merluccius merluccius, Mullus barbatus; Nephrops norvegicus). The MANTIS consortium includes 8 participants - CNR, WWF, Conisma, IOF, OGS, DFA-MSDEC, Nisea, Oceana - from 4 European Member States.