sm83s1-4915

Mediterranean demersal resources and ecosystems:
25 years of MEDITS trawl surveys

M.T. Spedicato, G. Tserpes, B. Mérigot and E. Massutí (eds)

The MEDITS trawl survey specifications in an ecosystem approach to fishery management

Maria Teresa Spedicato 1, Enric Massutí 2, Bastien Mérigot 3, George Tserpes 4, Angélique Jadaud 5, Giulio Relini 6

1 COISPA Tecnologia & Ricerca, via dei trulli 18, 70126 Bari, Italy.
(MTS) (Corresponding author) E-mail: spedicato@coispa.it. ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9939-9426
2 Intituto Español de Oceanografía, Centre Oceanogràfic de les Balears, Moll de Ponent s/n, 07015 Palma, Illes Baleares, Spain.
(EM) E-mail: enric.massuti@ieo.es. ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9524-5873
3 MARBEC - Université de Montpellier, CNRS, Ifremer, IRD, Sète, France.
(BM) E-mail: bastien.merigot@umontpellier.fr. ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5264-4324
4 Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Institute of Marine Biological Resources and Inland Waters, PO Box 2214, 71003 Heraklion, Greece.
(GT) E-mail: gtserpes@hcmr.gr. ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9052-4091
5 MARBEC - IFREMER, IRD, Université de Montpellier, CNRS, Avenue Jean Monnet, CS 30171, 34203 Sète Cedex, France.
(AJ) E-mail: ajadaud@ifremer.fr. ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6858-3570
6 Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, dell’Ambiente e della Vita (DISTAV), Università di Genova, Corso Europa 26, 16132 Genova, Italy.
(GR) E-mail: biolmar@unige.it. ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2502-5581

Summary: The MEDITS programme started in 1994 in the Mediterranean with the cooperation among research institutes from four countries: France, Greece, Italy and Spain. Over the years, until the advent of the European framework for the collection and management of fisheries data (the Data Collection Framework, DCF), new partners from Slovenia, Croatia, Albania, Montenegro, Malta and Cyprus joined MEDITS. The FAO regional projects facilitated the cooperation with non-European countries. MEDITS applies a common sampling protocol and methodology for sample collection, data storage and data quality checks (RoME routines). For many years, MEDITS represented the most important data source supporting the evaluation of demersal resources by means of population and community indicators, assessment and simulation models based on fishery-independent data. With the consolidation of the DCF, MEDITS routinely provides abundance indices of target species for tuning stock assessment models of intermediate complexity. Over the years, the survey scope has broadened from the population of demersal species to their fish community and ecosystems, and it has faced new challenges, such as the identification of essential fish habitats, providing new scientific insights linked to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (e.g. biodiversity, trophic webs, allochthonous species and marine macro-litter evaluations) and to the ecosystem approach to fishery and marine spatial planning.

Keywords: demersal resources; trawl survey; sampling; Mediterranean.

Especificaciones de las campañas de arrastre MEDITS en un enfoque ecosistémico para la gestión pesquera

Resumen: El programa MEDITS comenzó en 1994 en el Mediterráneo, con la cooperación entre institutos de investigación de cuatro países: Francia, Grecia, Italia, España. A lo largo del tiempo, y con la puesta en marcha del programa europeo para la recopilación y gestión de datos pesqueros (Data Collection Framework, DCF), se unieron nuevos socios como Eslovenia, Croacia, Albania, Montenegro, Malta y Chipre. Los proyectos regionales de FAO han facilitado la cooperación con países no europeos. MEDITS aplica un protocolo y una metodología de muestreo comunes, que abarca desde la recolección de muestras hasta el almacenamiento de datos y los controles de calidad de los mismos (programa RoME). Durante muchos años, MEDITS ha sido la fuente de datos más importante para la evaluación de los recursos demersales, mediante indicadores de población y comunidad y modelos de evaluación y simulación, basados en datos independientes de la pesca. Con la consolidación del DCF, MEDITS proporciona rutinariamente índices de abundancia de especies objetivo, que se usan para ajustar modelos de evaluación de stocks. A lo largo del tiempo, los objetivos de las campañas se han ampliado desde las poblaciones demersales a sus comunidades y ecosistemas, afrontando nuevos desafíos, como la identificación de hábitats esenciales para los peces, y proporcionando nuevos planteamientos científicos vinculados a la Directiva Marco sobre la Estrategia Marina (p.ej. biodiversidad, redes tróficas, especies alóctonas y evaluaciones de basura marina), así como la aproximación ecosistémica a las pesquerías y la Planificación Espacial Marina.

Palabras clave: recursos demersales; campaña de arrastre; muestreo; Mediterráneo.

Citation/Cómo citar este artículo: Spedicato M.T., Massutí E., Mérigot B., Tserpes G., Jadaud A., Relini G. 2019. The MEDITS trawl survey specifications in an ecosystem approach to fishery management. Sci. Mar. 83S1: 9-20. https://doi.org/10.3989/scimar.04915.11X

Editor:

Received: February 7, 2019. Accepted: November 22, 2019. Published: December 16, 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 CSIC. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License.

Contents

Summary
Resumen
Introduction
A summary of the technical specifications of the MEDITS survey
Summary of the MEDITS biological specifications
Ethical issues
Data collection on marine macro-litter
MEDITS data quality
Access to MEDITS data
MEDITS data for fisheries assessment
Final remarks
Acknowledgements
References

INTRODUCTIONTop

The aim of scientific bottom trawl surveys is typically to collect data on the distribution of a range of fish species, estimating relative abundance and biological parameters of these species (Hilborn and Walters 1992Hilborn R., Walters C.J. 1992. Quantitative fisheries stock assessment: Choice, dynamics and uncertainty. Chapman and Hall, New York. 570 pp., Gunderson 1993Gunderson D.R. 1993. Surveys of fisheries resources. Wiley. New York. 248 pp.). The use of quantitative indices obtained is manifold. These surveys are central to the knowledge of the status of commercially important fishery stocks and to forecasting how this status evolves over time (e.g. Trenkel et al. 2007Trenkel V.M., Rochet M.J., Mesnil B. 2007. From model-based prescriptive advice to indicator-based interactive advice. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 64: 768-774.).

In data-rich situations, when both fishery-dependent and fishery-independent data are available, indices of fish population structure by age or length or indices of the whole population are used for tuning age-structured or production stock assessment models. However, for several by-catch species or for stocks that are not the main target of the commercial fisheries, fishery-dependent data are sometimes of poor quality because of incompleteness of the time series, spatial coverage or misreporting (Cotter et al. 2009aCotter J., Petitgas P., Abella A., et al. 2009a. Towards an ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM) when trawl surveys provide the main source of information. Aquat. Living Resour. 22: 243-254.). In these data-limited situations, trawl surveys can provide valuable information in terms of quantitative abundance indices, length and/or age structure and biological parameters. Indeed, trawl surveys have gained more attention during the last decade as a primary tool for providing information that is useful per se to the assessment process (e.g. Cotter et al. 2009bCotter J., Mesnil B., Witthames P., et al. 2009b. Notes on nine biological indicators estimable from trawl surveys with an illustrative assessment for North Sea cod. Aquat. Living Resour. 22: 135-153.).

The MEDITS trawl survey programme in the Mediterranean started in 1994 as a European Commission–funded project in the framework of the cooperation between research institutes from four Member States of the European Union: France, Greece, Italy and Spain (Bertrand et al. 2002Bertrand J.A., De Sola L.G., Papaconstantinou C., et al. 2002. The general specifications of the MEDITS surveys. Sci. Mar. 66(Suppl. 2): 9-17.). During the following years, the survey was expanded to Slovenia, Croatia, Albania, Malta, Montenegro and Cyprus, finally involving 16 research institutes. Currently, the MEDITS sampling covers 543000 km2 with, on average, about 1283 sampling stations per year (Fig. 1; Table 1). Collaboration with non-European countries was facilitated by the FAO AdriaMed regional project and in 2000-2001 by the CopeMed project, for the conducting of two surveys in Morocco.

figure

Full size image

Fig. 1. – Study area of the MEDITS bottom trawl surveys, showing the hauls allocated to the geographical sub-areas established by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean.

Table 1. – Average number of hauls carried out during the MEDITS bottom trawl surveys by each geographical sub-area (GSA) established by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean during the period 1994-2001 (before the DCF) and the period 2002-2017. The codes of the MEDITS macrostrata (see Fig. 3) and the relative areas in km2 are also shown.

GSA Macrostrata code Area (km2) Hauls
1994-2001 2002-2017
1 111a 11920 34 44
2 111b 833 7
5 115 12656 4 55$$
6 112-113 32506 69 85
7 121 13860 67 64
8 131 4562 20 22
9 132 42410 153 120
10 134a-134b 20255 85 70
11 133 26975 120 99
15 135 10580 7 45
16 134c 31386 56 120
17 (W) 211a-211b 60350 86 120
17 (NE) 211c 184 2°° 2
17 (CE) 211d 31727 48°° 60
18 (W) 221e-221h 15273 72 70
18 (E) 221j 5000 5$
18 (SE) 221i 8735 40°° 15
19 221a-221d 16347 74 70
20 222a-222b 16823 31 36
22 (Ar) 223a 24916 22 23
22 (NAe) 224a 68157 65 65
22 (SAe) 225a 55258 38 40
23 225a (06-10) 7343 16 20
25 321a 11106 26**
3 114 13841 55* -

°° since 1996; * southern Alboran Sea; ** since 2005; $$ since 2007; $ since 2008.

In 2002, the European countries bordering the Mediterranean made a commitment to carry out MEDITS surveys yearly according to the European Data Collection Framework (DCF). Permanent links are therefore maintained with the relevant bodies at European Union level, such as the Regional Coordination Group of the Mediterranean and Black Sea (RCG_Med&BS) and the Scientific Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). Furthemore, links were also maintained with the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), the FAO regional fisheries management organization.

The MEDITS data have been used for joint publications, which have elucidated several aspects related to abundance and biomass indices of demersal species, their length-/age-frequency distribution (by sex and maturity stages) and life history parameters, the latter especially related to total and fishing mortality. Population and community indicators and spatial occupation indices have also been estimated. All these results have provided information among the various GFCM geographical sub-areas (GSAs) of the Mediterranean for a range of target species and thematic areas. The first MEDITS monograph published in 2002 under the title “Mediterranean marine demersal resources: The MEDITS international trawl survey (1994-1999)” (Abelló et al. 2002Abelló P., Bertrand J.A., De Sola L.G., et al. (eds). 2002. Mediterranean marine demersal resources: the MEDITS international trawl survey (1994-1999). Sci. Mar. 66(Suppl. 2): 1-280.) is the earliest good example of a joint publication at the wide geographical scale of the northern Mediterranean. Furthermore, studies have been carried out to understand the impact of fishing pressure on the abundance of populations, fish community diversity and structure, as well as to investigate the influence of environmental drivers on shaping the spatial and temporal distribution of fish populations and their communities, thus helping forecast the effects of global changes at a Mediterranean scale. Taxonomic studies, including new reports in the area and descriptions of new species, have also been carried out from samples collected during MEDITS surveys.

A list of relevant publications is provided in the Supplementary Material.

Twenty-five years after the beginning of the MEDITS trawl survey, this second monograph aims to further understanding spatial and temporal patterns of populations and fish community structures and to explore the influence of anthropogenic factors in shaping such patterns.

This paper aims to summarize and update the specifications of the MEDITS trawl survey, focusing on those most relevant to an ecosystem approach to fishery management and on data quality. The latter is pivotal for a sound evaluation of the status of demersal resources and their communities.

A SUMMARY OF THE TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS OF THE MEDITS SURVEYTop

Since the beginning of the project, the standard sampling gear has been the bottom trawl GOC 73 (Bertrand et al. 2002Bertrand J.A., De Sola L.G., Papaconstantinou C., et al. 2002. The general specifications of the MEDITS surveys. Sci. Mar. 66(Suppl. 2): 9-17.) designed for experimental fishing for scientific purposes in the various conditions encountered in the whole survey area. It has a vertical opening slightly larger than that of the most common professional gears used in the area. Its codend mesh size is 20 mm (stretched mesh) to also allow the catch of juveniles of many species for estimating recruitment indices. Specific studies have been conducted to increase knowledge on the efficiency of the gear (Fiorentini et al. 1996Fiorentini L., Cosimi G., Sala A., et al. 1996. Intercalibration des campagnes internationales de chalutage démersal en Méditerranée centrale. IRPEM. CE Med/93/015: 59 pp., Fiorentini and Dremière 1996Fiorentini L., Dremière P.Y. 1996. Efficacy and selectivity of the trawl used for the MEDITS project. IRPEM: 17 pp., Dremière et al. 1999Dremière P.-Y., Fiorentini L., Cosimi G., et al. 1999. Escapement from the main body of the bottom trawl used for the Mediterranean international trawl survey (MEDITS). Aquat. Living Resour. 12: 207-217., Fiorentini et al. 1999Fiorentini L., Dremière P.-Y., Leonori I., et al. 1999. Efficiency of the bottom trawl used for the Mediterranean international trawl survey (MEDITS). Aquat. Living Resour. 12: 187-205.). Both research and commercial vessels are used, depending on the GSA and country, so operational conditions in the GSAs differ.

Haul duration is 30 minutes on the continental shelf (10-200 m depth) and 60 minutes on the slope (201-800 m depth). The standard fishing speed is 3 knots on the ground, and hauls are allowed only during daytime. Haul performance and gear geometry are usually monitored using the SCANMAR system or, more recently, SIMRAD or MARPORT sensors. Data acquisition is monitored in real time using a laptop and specific software. Effective tow duration was considered as the interval from the time when the gear is stabilized on the bottom and the time when speed is reduced to recover the warp. Vertical and horizontal openings (wings) of the net working on the bottom are expected to range from 2 to 3 m (more commonly 2 and 2.5 m) the former and from 15 to 22 m the latter, the higher values depending on depth. On each haul, the horizontal opening is used to standardize abundance and biomass of catches in relation to the sampled surface.

In addition, probes are used to record water temperature (formerly using Minilog and currently DST Logic CTD sensors) on the bottom during the towing. Intercalibration to exchange knowledge and fine tuning of the application of the common protocols in the field activities have been pursued since the beginning of the MEDITS survey, especially through the exchange of scientists on board the vessels. Furthermore, intercalibration studies have been performed in some GSAs to evaluate vessel effect when a change was needed. For example, this was done between the research vessels Cornide de Saavedra, used in GSAs 1 (northern Alboran), 2 (Alboran Island), 5 (Balearic Islands) and 6 (northern Spain), and Miguel Oliver, as the former had to be replaced. The intercalibration study was conducted in GSA 6 using parallel hauls and did not show significant differences.

The potential impact of different methods for estimating wing opening on the standardized abundance indices (number and kg km2) have been tested on a case study in GSA 10 (central-southern Tyrrhenian Sea). Different models were applied to species with different depth distributions, such as European hake (continental shelf and slope), red mullet (continental shelf) and giant red shrimp (slope):

– the mean of the wing opening by depth stratum (median and mode were almost coincident with the mean, so only this metric was used) (1)

– a logarithmic equation applied for the period 2002-2012:

WO=14.54+0.651×ln(x)

(2)

– a logarithmic equation applied during the period 1994-2001 before the routine use of SCANMAR system for gear monitoring:

WO=133.94+6.7873×ln(x)

(3)

where WO is the wing opening and x is depth.

The results highlighted that the impact on the estimates of abundance indices (both in number and weight) over 10 years (2002-2012) was, on average, around 2% if Equation (2) was compared with the mean (1) and around 8% if Equation (3) was compared with the mean (1). This higher percentage was observed only for European hake (Fig. 2). Thus, it was considered acceptable to continue to use Equation (3), in continuity with the past, if a device for monitoring the trawl geometry could not be used in a certain GSA in a given year.

figure2

Full size image

Fig. 2. – Comparison of the abundance indices (A, abundance in N km–2; B, biomass in kg km–2 of European hake) as means by stratum, obtained with the values of wing opening per haul estimated from the SCANMAR monitoring system and as results of two logarithmic regressions respectively for the years 2002-2012 and for the years 1994-2001: WO=14.54+0.651×ln(x); WO=6.7873×ln(depth)+133.94, where WO is the wing opening and x is depth.

The time of the year in which the MEDITS survey is scheduled is late spring-summer (from May to July). The survey follows a depth-stratified random sampling scheme, with haul allocation being proportional to the surface of depth strata, whose limits are 10-50, 51-100, 101-200, 201-500 and 501-800 m. Up to 44 different geographic sectors are also included in the stratification. The sampling strata and the GFCM GSAs are reported in Figure 3.

figure3

Full size image

Fig. 3. – Map of the Mediterranean showing the geographic strata (black lines) considered in the MEDITS bottom trawl surveys allocated to the geographical sub-areas (GSAs; white lines) established by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean.

Indices are calculated following the usual procedure of the stratified mean and variance (Souplet 1996Souplet A. 1996. Calculation of abundance indices and length frequencies in the MEDITS survey. In: Bertrand J. (ed), Campagne internationale de chalutage démersal en Méditerranée (MEDITS). Campagne 1995 Vol. III. Rapport final de contrat CEEIFREMER-IEO-SIBM-NCMR (MED/93/020,018,006,004).):

I= i=1 N W i x ¯ i

var(I)= i=1 N W i 2 S x i 2 j=1 n i A i,j (1 f i )

R scripts have been developed for estimating population indices. These scripts are available at https://www.coispa.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=34&Itemid=119&lang=it.

However, since the advent of the DCF, some changes have occurred: i) an increase or a decrease in the sampling intensity from the period 1994-2001 to the subsequent one; ii) a deviation of the survey season from the standard one in certain areas and years; and iii) vessel replacements without the possibility of performing field intercalibration tests. For all these reasons, modelling through GLM, GAM, Delta-GLM and Delta-GAM was suggested, both for the standardization of abundance and biomass indices and for the length-frequency distributions. R scripts have been developed for those purposes and are available at https://www.coispa.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=34&Itemid=119&lang=it.

Summary of the MEDITS biological specificationsTop

The focus of the collection of survey data has been on keeping consistency throughout the time, so revisions of the protocols were introduced taking care to avoid disruptions in the time series. These changes are proposed, discussed and adopted in the MEDITS coordination meetings, which are organized annually.

During the last few years more emphasis was directed towards addressing ecosystem questions, while placing the survey in the DCF. Since 2012, the taxonomic categories and lists have been expanded to take into account the needs of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD; EU 2008European Union (EU). 2008. Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 establishing a framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy (Marine Strategy Framework Directive).).

All the species larger than 1 cm caught during the MEDITS survey are identified, then total weight and number of individuals are recorded. Alien species are also identified and noted. Currently 43 taxonomic categories are used (Table 2), linked to 1470 observed taxa (at least in one GSA). A full taxonomic list (TM list) is hence routinely updated and is currently available in the online repository (https://www.sibm.it/MEDITS%202011/principaledownload.htm).The procedure for including a new species in the TM list foresees that the new species’s name and sheet is submitted to the person responsible for the TM list who, after checks, proposes a specific code according to the rule of the Nordic Code Centre (NCC-Stockholm).

Table 2. – List of the taxonomic categories used in the MEDITS bottom trawl surveys with code specification and year of introduction and use. The symbol “—” indicates that the taxonomic category is still used.

MEDITS code Nature Years
A Fish 1994-2011
Aa Fish Agnatha 2014—
Ae Fish Elasmobranchii 2012—
Ao Fish Osteichthyes 2012—
B Crustaceans (Decapoda) 1994—
Bam Amphipoda 2012—
Bci Cirripedia 2012—
Beu Euphausiacea 2012—
Bis Isopoda 2012—
Bst Stomatopoda 2012—
C Cephalopoda 1994—
D Other commercial (edible) species 1994-2011
Dec Echinodermata 2012—
Dmb Mollusca Bivalvia 2012—
Dmg Mollusca Gastropoda 2012—
Dmo Mollusca Opisthobranchia 2012—
Dtu Tunicata (Ascidiacea) 2012—
E Other animal species but not commercial (not edible) 1994-2011
Ean Annellida 2014—
Eba Brachiopoda 2012—
Ebr Bryozoa 2012—
Ech Echiura 2014—
Ecn Cnidaria 2012—
Ect Ctenophora 2012—
Eec Echinodermata 2012—
Ehi Hirudinea 2012—
Emb Mollusca Bivalvia 2012—
Emg Mollusca Gastropoda 2012—
Emo Mollusca Opisthobranchia 2012—
Emp Mollusca Polyplacophora 2014—
Ene Nemertea 2014—
Epo Polychaeta 2012—
Epr Priapulidae 2014—
Esi Sipunculida 2012—
Esc Scaphopoda 2012—
Esp Sponges (Porifera) 2012—
Etu Tunicata (Ascidiacea) 2012—
G Portions or products of animal species (shell debris, eggs of gastropods, selachians, etc.) 2012—
H Portions or products of vegetal species (e.g. leaves of sea grasses, of terrestrial plants, etc.) 2012—
M Mammals 2014—
O Birds 2014—
R Reptilia (turtles) 2014—
V #Aquatic plants, macroalgae# 2014—

Currently, the TM list is composed of approximately 1617 codes. Up to 2017, the identified taxa included 385 bony fish, 54 elasmobranchs, 220 crustaceans (decapods), 25 other crustaceans, 60 cephalopods, 93 echinoderms, 115 bivalve molluscs, 98 gastropod molluscs, 54 opisthobranch molluscs, 72 tunicates (mainly Ascidiacea), 28 bryozoans, 90 cnidarians, 42 polychaetes, 50 porifers, 100 aquatic plants and macroalgae and other less numerous groups. 54 taxa of bony fish and 5 elasmobranchs were recorded in all the GSAs, while for crustacean decapods 10 taxa were observed in all the GSAs (Relini 2015Relini G. 2015. Fish biodiversity in MEDITS surveys. Biol. Mar. Mediterr. 22: 176-177., Relini and Vallarino 2016Relini G., Vallarino G. 2016. Species richness of Crustacea Decapoda in MEDITS surveys. Biol. Mar. Mediterr. 23: 277-278., Relini and Vallarino 2017Relini G., Vallarino G. 2017. Cephalopods recorded during MEDITS surveys. Biol. Mar. Mediterr. 24: 216-217.).

Among the 14 alien (non-indigenous) bony fish, 12 were recorded in GSA 25 (Relini 2015Relini G. 2015. Fish biodiversity in MEDITS surveys. Biol. Mar. Mediterr. 22: 176-177.). The occurrence of 6 alien species of Crustacea decapoda was also recorded, mainly in the eastern Mediterranean (Relini and Vallarino 2016Relini G., Vallarino G. 2016. Species richness of Crustacea Decapoda in MEDITS surveys. Biol. Mar. Mediterr. 23: 277-278.).

Since 2012, the MEDITS reference list of target species has been updated (Table 3) and includes 82 species, of which 32 are elasmobranchs. In addition, the list includes all species of the Epinephelus and Scomber genera, for which length measurements should be taken.

Table 3. – Scientific name and code of the target species of the MEDITS bottom trawl surveys, year in which they started to be considered target and MEDITS group in which they were classified. Species belonging to the group G1, according to the MEDITS grouping of species, are in bold. * depending on the species; ** for brevity only the genus is reported (or the group of species in the case of the elasmobranchs), but the single species of the genus or of the group are considered. For further details, see Medits Handbook, Version 9 (Anonymous 2017Anonymous. 2017. MEDITS Handbook, Version n. 9. MEDITS Working Group, 106 pp.).

Species Code Year Group
Chelidonichthys cuculus (Linnaeus 1758) ASPI CUC 1998 G2
Chelidonichthys lucerna (Linnaeus 1758) TRIG LUC 2006 G2
Boops boops (Linnaeus, 1758) BOOP BOO 2006 G2
Citharus linguatula (Linnaeus, 1758) CITH MAC 1994 G2
Diplodus annularis (Linnaeus, 1758) DIPL ANN 2012 G2
Doplodus puntazzo (Cetti, 1777) DIPL PUN 2012 G2
Diplodus sargus (Linnaeus, 1758) DIPL SAR 2012 G2
Diplodus vulgaris (Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1817) DIPL VUL 2012 G2
Engraulis encrasicolus (Linnaeus, 1758) ENGR ENC 2012 G2
Epinephelus spp. ** EPIN SPP 2012 G2
Eutrigla gurnardus (Linnaeus, 1758) EUTR GUR 1994 G2
Helicolenus dactylopterus (Delaroche, 1809) HELI DAC 1994 G2
Lepidorhombus boscii (Risso, 1810) LEPM BOS 1994 G2
Lithognathus mormyrus (Linnaeus, 1758) LITH MOR 2012 G2
Lophius budegassa Spinola, 1807 LOPH BUD 1994 G2
Lophius piscatorius Linnaeus, 1758 LOPH PIS 1994 G2
Merluccius merluccius (Linnaeus, 1758) MERL MER 1994 G1
Micromesistius poutassou (Risso, 1826) MICM POU 1994 G2
Mullus barbatus Linnaeus, 1758 MULL BAR 1994 G1
Mullus surmuletus Linnaeus, 1758 MULL SUR 1994 G1
Pagellus acarne (Risso, 1826) PAGE ACA 1994 G2
Pagellus bogaraveo (Brünnich, 1768) PAGE BOG 1994 G2
Pagellus erythrinus (Linnaeus, 1758) PAGE ERY 1994 G2
Phycis blennoides (Brünnich, 1768) PHYI BLE 1994 G2
Pagrus pagrus (Linnaeus, 1758) SPAR PAG 2012 G2
Polyprion americanus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801) POLY AME 2012 G2
Psetta maxima (Linnaeus, 1758) PSET MAX 2012 G2
Sardina pilchardus (Walbaum, 1792) SARD PIL 2012 G2
Scomber spp. ** SCOM SPP 2012 G2
Solea solea (Linnaeus 1758) SOLE VUL 1994 G2
Spicara flexuosa Rafinesque, 1810 SPIC FLE 1994 G2
Spicara maena (Linnaeus, 1758) SPIC MAE 2012 G2
Spicara smaris (Linnaeus, 1758) SPIC SMA 1998 G2
Trachurus mediterraneus (Steindachner, 1863) TRAC MED 1994 G2
Trachurus trachurus (Linnaeus, 1758) TRAC TRA 1994 G2
Trigloporus lastoviza (Bonnaterre, 1788) TRIP LAS 1998 G2
Trisopterus m. capelanus (Lacepède, 1800) TRIS CAP 1994 G2
Zeus faber Linnaeus, 1758 ZEUS FAB 1994 G2
Elasmobranchs**   1999-2012* G1
Aristeus antennatus (Risso, 1816) ARIT ANT 1994 G1
Aristaeomorpha foliacea (Risso, 1827) ARIS FOL 1994 G1
Nephrops norvegicus (Linnaeus, 1758) NEPR NOR 1994 G1
Parapenaeus longirostris (Lucas, 1846) PAPE LON 1994 G1
Palinurus elephas (Fabricius, 1787)  PALI ELE 2012 G2
Penaeus kerathurus (Forskål, 1775) PENA KER 2012 G2
Squilla mantis (Linnaeus, 1758) SQUI MAN 2012 G2
Eledone cirrhosa (Lamarck, 1798) ELED CIR 1994 G2
Eledone moschata (Lamarck, 1799) ELED MOS 1997 G2
Illex coindetii (Verany, 1839) ILLE COI 1994 G1
Loligo vulgaris Lamarck, 1798 LOLI VUL 1994 G1
Octopus vulgaris Cuvier, 1797 OCTO VUL 1994 G2
Sepia officinalis Linnaeus, 1758 SEPI OFF 1994 G2
Todarodes sagittatus (Lamarck, 1798) TODA SAG 2012 G2

For all these species and the two genera, total number of individuals, total weight and individual length are collected.

This list of species has been further split in two groups:

– MEDITS G1, which includes 41 species, contains 3 bony fish, 4 crustaceans, 2 cephalopods and 32 elasmobranchs. For these species total number of individuals, total weight, individual length and also biological parameters including sex, maturity, individual weight and age are collected;

– MEDITS G2, which includes 43 species for which the total number of individuals, total weight and individual length are collected.

In 2011, the MEDITS coordination meeting agreed to increase the information recorded during the MEDITS survey, including the monitoring of new biological variables such as the age of bony fish species coded G1 and the individual weight of all the species coded G1.

A length-stratified random sampling was adopted to collect these biological variables, with fixed number of individuals randomly chosen from each length class by sex to take otoliths and individual weight. For details, see the MEDITS Handbook (Anonymous 2017Anonymous. 2017. MEDITS Handbook, Version n. 9. MEDITS Working Group, 106 pp.). These biological variables were thus added to the routinely collected information on the macroscopic maturity stage for the main taxonomic groups. All individual measures of the different species are collected following common protocols.

Maturity scales currently used for the main taxonomic groups, Osteichthyes, oviparous and viviparous Elasmobranchii, Crustacea and Cephalopoda were updated at different time steps. A first update of the maturity scales was introduced in 2007, when it was decided to better discriminate the individuals that were maturing for the first time from those that had already reproduced at least once. In addition, this update aimed to better distinguish stages in the maturation and reabsorbing processes. The final goal was to allow, as much as possible, an unbiased estimate of the size at first maturity using either the maturity ogive or mean size at maturing and mature stages. Since 2013, the maturity scale of elasmobranchs was split between oviparous and viviparous species, given the differences of these reproduction strategies.

The validation of the maturity staging has been continuously pursued over the years, with microscopic histological analysis performed by a working group on maturity staging, established in the MEDITS coordination group. At the beginning of 2013, macroscopic photos and descriptions of the full maturity scales of 68 species were collected along with photos of histological sections. This work was also enriched with observations from other seasons carried out in the DCF biological samplings and culminated in the publication of the “Atlas on the maturity stages of Mediterranean fishery resources” (Follesa and Carbonara 2019Follesa M.C., Carbonara P. (eds). 2019. Atlas of the maturity stages of Mediterranean fishery resources. Studies and Reviews, n. 99. Rome, FAO. 268 pp.).

Also for the collection of otoliths, a dedicated working group on ageing protocols was established within the MEDITS coordination group. This work, complemented with the one carried out in the DCF biological samplings, contributed to the publication of the “Handbook on fish age determination: a Mediterranean experience” (Carbonara and Follesa 2019Carbonara P., Follesa M.C. (eds). 2019. Handbook on fish age determination: a Mediterranean experience. Studies and Reviews. No. 98. Rome, FAO 180 pp. ).

Furthermore, these MEDITS working groups established and maintained links with the ICES Working Group BIOP (e.g. ICES 2017ICES. 2017. Report of the Working Group on Biological Parameters (WGBIOP), 2-6 October 2017, Sardinia, Italy. ICES CM 2017/SSGIEOM:08. 129 pp.). This allowed a continuous update and, for example, the introduction, for the main taxonomic group, of maturity stage conversion tables between MEDITS maturity scales and other scales if differences emerged. These conversion tables allowed consistency to be maintained in the time series.

Ethical issuesTop

The MEDITS protocol prescribes that if a live specimen of a rare species or a species subject to conservation measures is caught, efforts should be made to obtain length, weight and sex data and return the specimen back to the sea unharmed, giving it a chance for survival. The specimens should be returned to the sea preferably within 4-5 minutes.

Data collection on marine macro-litterTop

In 2013, the MEDITS coordination meeting decided to introduce among the MEDITS activities the samplings of marine macro-litter, to provide data for the descriptor 10 of the MSFD. A common protocol, taking the basis from the one of Galgani et al. (1996)Galgani F., Souplet A., Cadiou Y. 1996. Accumulation of debris on the deep sea floor off the French Mediterranean coast. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 142: 225-234. , was hence established for the collection of these data on a voluntary basis and it was further improved in 2014 and 2015. Up to 34 different typologies have been identified in the protocol, including 9 main categories related to litter material class and 27 sub-categories related to source and main litter findings (Table 4). This table also shows a comparison with the classification adopted by the ICES International Bottom Trawl Survey (IBTS).

Table 4. – Cross-cutting table of the protocol for the collection of marine macro-litter during the MEDITS bottom trawl surveys and the ICES IBTS surveys. Main litter categories, sub-categories and respective codes are shown.

MEDITS IBTS
Main categories Sub-categories Code Code Sub-categories Main categories
L1: Plastic Bags L1a A3 Bags A: Plastic
Food wrappers L1c
Bottles L1b A1 Bottles
Sheets L1d A2 Sheets
Hard plastic objects (crates, containers, ash-trays, tubes, lids, etc.) (specify) L1e A4 Caps/lids
A9 Cable ties
A11 Crates and containers
B5 Syringes
Fishing nets L1f A8 Fishing nets
Fishing line L1g A5 Fishing lines monofilament
A6 Fishing lines entangled
Ropes/strapping bands L1i A7 Synthetic rope
A10 Strapping band
Other fishing-related items (pots, floats, etc.) L1h A12 Others
Others L1j A12 Others
L2: Rubber Tyres L2a D4 Tyres D: Rubber
Others (gloves, boots/shoes, oilskins, etc.) L2b D1 Boots
D2 Balloons
D3 Bobbins (fishing)
D5 Gloves
D6 Others
B4 Condoms
L3: Metal Beverage cans L3a C2 Cans (food) C: Metals
Other food cans/wrappers L3b C1 Cans (beverage)
Medium-size containers (of paint, oil, chemicals) L3c C8 Others
Large metal objects (barrels, pieces of machinery, electric appliances) L3d C5 Appliances
C6 Car parts
C4 Drums
Cables L3e C7 Cables
Fishing-related items (hooks, spears, etc.) (specify) L3f C3 Fishing-related items
Remnants from the war L3g C8 Others
L4: Glass/ceramics Bottles L4a E2 Bottles E: Glass/ceramics
Pieces of glass L4b E3 Pieces
Ceramic jars L4c E1 Jars
Large objects L4d E4 Others
L5: Cloth (textile)/natural fibres Clothing (clothes, shoes) L4a G1 Clothing/rags B: Sanitary waste F: Natural product G: Miscellaneous
G2 Shoes
Large pieces (carpets, matresses, etc) L4b F5 Others
Natural ropes L4c F2
Sanitaries (diapers, cotton buds, etc) L4d B1 Diapers
B2 Cotton buds
B6 Sanitary towels/tampons
L6: Wood processed (palettes, crates, etc.) L6 F1 Wood (processed) F: Natural product
F4 Pallets
F5 Others
L7: Paper and cardboard L7 F3 Paper/cardboard F: Natural product
F5 Others
L8: Others L8 B3 Cigarettes butts B: Sanitary waste G: Miscellaneous
G3 Others
B7 Others
L9: Unspecified L9

As a result of this activity, the MEDITS group also contributed to the actions of the United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP), the Barcelona Convention of the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) for implementing the Regional Plan on Marine Litter Management in the Mediterranean, and the Marine Litter Regional Cooperation Platform. This platform was established by UNEP-MAP as an open-ended group of regional and international partners participating on a voluntary basis and with mandates and activities contributing to the environmentally sound management of marine litter in the Mediterranean (available at http://web.unep.org/unepmap/keywords/marine-litter)

MEDITS data qualityTop

The MEDITS protocol also establishes common formats for data storage, which include the following standard files: TA (data on the technical specifications of the hauls), TB (aggregated data on total number and weight by species), TC (aggregated data of the frequency distribution by length, sex and maturity stage by species), TE (individual data of length, weight and age by sex) and TL (data by category and subcategory of marine macro-litter).

The Common Fisheries Policy sets out key principles for data quality: e.g. accuracy, reliability and timeliness, avoidance of duplication through improved coordination, safe storage in data base systems and improved availability (EC 2013European Commission (EC). 2013. Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy, Amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1954/2003 and (EC) No 1224/2009 and Repealing Council Regulations (EC) No 2371/2002 and (EC) No 639/2004 and Council Decision 2004/585/EC. European Commission, Brussels. 40 pp.). To minimize the occurrence of errors, in addition to the standardization of data collection using common protocols at the different steps of the survey implementation, common data checks on the MEDITS standard files were implemented. In 2011, the process of data quality checks was updated and standardized among the MEDITS group to unify the checks independently made by the 18 GSAs participating in the MEDITS survey.

To perform automatically the data check procedure by means of a routine enabling errors to be detected and facilitating their correction, the RoME routine, an R code for performing multiple and cross checks on MEDITS survey data in TA, TB, TC, TE and TL files, was developed (Bitetto et al. 2019Bitetto I., Facchini M.T., Spedicato M.T. 2019. RoME (version 1.4): R code to perform multiple checks on MEDITS Survey data (TA, TB, TC, TD, TT and TE files).). In version 1.3, RoME was transformed into a package structured in 55 different functions: the run is performed by means of the function RoME(). Each function is related to a specific check and is recalled in a specific order to avoid cascade errors. This is also maintained in RoME version 1.4.

This software does not correct the data, but it detects the errors, warning the user that there is the possibility of one or more errors, specifying the type of the error and facilitating correction of the data. The process is based on a loop of checks (errors and warnings) and feedbacks, so users are able to correct data but they are also advised if some deviations from the protocols occur that are not necessarily classified as errors. This also represents the basis for a data quality assurance and audit for the data to be used in the MSFD (Moriarty et al. 2019Moriarty M., Greenstreet S.P.R., Rasmussen J., et al. 2019. Assessing the state of demersal fish to address formal ecosystem based management needs: making fisheries independent trawl survey data ‘fit for purpose’. Front. Mar. Sci. 6: 162.) and in the data calls of end users. The analysis carried out at EWG-STECF level evidenced that the quality of MEDITS data greatly improved when RoME was used before data upload and the Joint Research Centre checks correctly show no error patterns (STECF 2013Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). 2013. Assessment of Mediterranean Sea stocks part I (STECF 13-22). Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, EUR 26329 EN, JRC 86087. 400 pp.). The data checks are performed by RoME simultaneously on the files that can also contain data of more than one year. Further specifications can be found in the RoME Manual, which can be downloaded together with the software at the following link: https://www.sibm.it/MEDITS%202011/principaledownload.htm.

Another point which can be a source of bias is related to the gear used during the survey, i.e. whether the technical specifications are in line with the standards adopted for the MEDITS gear. The Multidisciplinary Group on Gear Performance and Standardization of Gear Data Processing (MGGP) was established within the MEDITS coordination group. Regular checks of the MEDITS gears (trawl, rigging and doors) were introduced in 2012, and this protocol of checks was updated in 2014 and further revised in 2015 to fix some technical details. The final version is reported in the MEDITS Handbook, which also includes the work performed by this working group (MEDITS-Handbook. Version 9, Anonymous 2017Anonymous. 2017. MEDITS Handbook, Version n. 9. MEDITS Working Group, 106 pp. ).

Access to MEDITS dataTop

Access to the MEDITS data is currently controlled by regulation EU 2017/1004 (recast). Data are made available for end users’ needs (e.g. STECF, GFCM) through specific data calls released on an annual basis. Data can also be made available by the relevant countries for specific projects. To facilitate scientific collaborations, each year the MEDITS coordination group agrees common projects, including scientific publications based on the MEDITS data.

In addition, through contacts with the international and national coordinators, a certain number of scientists not involved in the MEDITS project can be invited to the annual MEDITS coordination meetings to present proposals for common projects and discuss the preparation of scientific papers.

MEDITS data for fisheries assessmentTop

In the Mediterranean, until the advent of the DCF, trawl survey data were considered the most important—and sometimes the only—source of reliable information for evaluating the status of stocks, fish communities and ecosystems using total mortality estimates (e.g. SAMED; Lembo 2002Lembo G. (coord.). 2002. Stock Assessment in the Mediterranean. Final Report EU Project n° 99/047.), assessment models based on fishery-independent data (e.g. SURBA; Needle 2003Needle C.L. 2003. Survey-based assessments with SURBA. Working Document to the ICES Working Group on Methods of Fish Stock Assessment, Copenhagen, 29 January - 5 February 2003.), simulation models (e.g. ALADYM; Lembo et al. 2009Lembo G., Abella A., Fiorentino F., et al. 2009. ALADYM: an age and length-based single species simulator for exploring alternative management strategies. Aquat. Living Resour. 22: 233-241. ) and population and community indicators (Cotter et al. 2009aCotter J., Petitgas P., Abella A., et al. 2009a. Towards an ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM) when trawl surveys provide the main source of information. Aquat. Living Resour. 22: 243-254.).

Under simple formulation and assumptions on natural mortality, MEDITS data allow estimates of total mortality to be made from the structure of the species population at sea, so that guess estimates of the exploitation rate can be obtained, an approach that is also valid in data-limited situations. The SAMED project (Lembo 2002Lembo G. (coord.). 2002. Stock Assessment in the Mediterranean. Final Report EU Project n° 99/047.) was a good example, outlining specific methods and approaches and providing an evaluation of several stocks in the Mediterranean (GFCM-SAC 2002GFCM-SAC. 2002. Report of the fourth stock assessment Sub-Committee meeting (SCSA) Barcelona, Spain, 6-9 May. 118 pp.). With the consolidation of the DCF, MEDITS data routinely support the stock assessment of the target species, providing relevant abundance indices for tuning the assessment models (for brevity, only the last year reports are here cited; STECF 2018aScientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). 2018a. Mediterranean Stock Assessments - Part 1 (STECF-18-12). Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg., 2018bScientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). 2018b. Mediterranean Stock Assessments - Part 2 (STECF-18-16). Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg. , FAO 2018FAO. 2018. Report of the twentieth session of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Fisheries. General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean. Tangiers, Morocco, 26-29 June 2018. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Report R1245, Rome, Italy. 225 pp.).

Furthermore, MEDITS data have been exploited in several projects to shed light on the localization of essential fish habitats, i.e. nursery and spawning grounds (e.g. Lembo 2010Lembo G. (coord.). 2010. Identification and localization of main nursery areas of demersal species in the Italian sea. NURSERY. Final report (VI Plan MIPAAF), Italian Biology Association- S.I.B.M., Genova. 119 pp., Giannoulaki et al. 2013Giannoulaki M., Belluscio A., Colloca F., et al. (eds). 2013. Mediterranean Sensitive Habitats. DG MARE Specific Contract SI2.600741, Final Report. 557 pp., Druon et al. 2015Druon J.N., Fiorentino F., Murenu M., et al. 2015. Modelling of European hake nurseries in the Mediterranean Sea: an ecological niche approach. Prog. Oceanogr. 130: 188-204., Colloca et al. 2015Colloca F., Garofalo G., Bitetto I., et al. 2015. The seascape of demersal fish nursery areas in the North Mediterranean Sea, a first step towards the implementation of spatial planning for trawl fisheries. PLoS ONE 10: e0119590.), for fish stock identification (Fiorentino et al. 2015Fiorentino F., Massutí E., Tinti F., et al. 2015. Stock units: Identification of distinct biological units (stock units) for different fish and shellfish species and among different GFCM-GSA. STOCKMED Deliverable 03: Final Report. January 2015, 310 pp.), to discover stability or change in biodiversity (e.g. Gaertner et al. 2010Gaertner J.C., Mérigot B., Relini G., et al. 2010. Reproducibility of the multi-component aspect of species diversity through different areas and scales: towards the constitution of a shortlist of complementary indices for monitoring fish diversity? Ecography 33: 1123-1135., 2013Gaertner J.C, Maiorano P., Mérigot B., et al. 2013. Large-scale diversity of slope fishes: patterns inconsistency between multiple diversity indices. PLoS ONE 8: e66753., Granger et al. 2015Granger V., Fromentin J.M., Bez N., et al. 2015. Large spatio-temporal monitoring highlights shift in Mediterranean fish diversity hotspots. Prog. Oceanogr. 130: 65-74.), to elucidate whether changes in fishing and environmental pressures are propagated bottom-up, top-down, or both (Rochet et al. 2010Rochet M.J., Trenkel V.M., Carpentier A., et al. 2010. Do changes in environmental and fishing pressures impact marine communities? An empirical assessment. J. Appl. Ecol. 47: 741-750.), to identify regional differences in changes of functional group biomass associated with regional variations of environmental factors (Brind’Amour et al. 2016Brind’Amour A., Rochet M.J., Ordines F., et al. 2016. Environmental drivers explain regional variation of changes in fish and invertebrate functional groups across the Mediterranean Sea from 1994 to 2012. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 562: 19-35.), to perform a large-scale analysis of cephalopod demersal community (Keller et al. 2017Keller S., Hidalgo M., Álvarez-Berastegui D., et al. 2017. Demersal cephalopod communities in the Mediterranean: a large-scale analysis. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 584: 105-118. ), and to validate forecasts of an integrated ecosystem model at a Mediterranean-wide scale (Moullec et al. 2019Moullec F., Velez L., Verley P., et al. 2019. Capturing the big picture of Mediterranean marine biodiversity with an end-to-end model of climate and fishing impacts. Prog. Oceanogr. 178: 102179.).

Final remarksTop

The strength of the MEDITS survey so far has been the agreement among the participants to share standardized methods at a Mediterranean level using the same gear, sampling scheme and protocols for collecting, checking and analysing data. However, a shift in the survey time occurred in some situations, and the survey could be not conducted in some years because of administrative issues at national level. Implementing mitigation actions through standardization methods based on GAM modelling is possible, but this process is time-consuming and not always successful. Hence, an effort should be made to avoid disruptions in the time series of surveys as much as possible.

The experience gained in MEDITS in terms of standardization of file formats (TA, TB, TC, TE and TL) and data quality checks can be used to move forward the implementation of a common database/platform to share the effectiveness of open source visual and statistical data checks, keeping internationally available and maintained standard reference lists, sharing data for process and upon end users’ requests. In fact, data accessibility and availability for scientific use is also considered a key point in the European Union (STECF 2018cScientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). 2018c. Preparation for the evaluation of the list of mandatory research surveys at sea (STECF-18-04). Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.). The experience gained in MEDITS in terms of data standardization and data quality checks can also be applied to recover time series of past surveys in the different countries, as was already done in the context of the RECFISH project (Ligas 2019Ligas A. (coord.). 2019. Recovery of fisheries historical time series for Mediterranean and Black Sea stock assessment RECFISH. SC 01 Final Report (Deliverable D0.4). Framework contract for the provision of scientific advice for the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. EASME/EMFF/2016/032. 95 pp.) for the GRUND surveys (Relini 2000Relini G. 2000. Demersal trawl surveys in the Italian seas: a short review. In: Bertrand J.A., Relini G. (eds), Demersal resources in the Mediterranean. Actes de Colloques, 26. IFREMER, Plouzane: pp. 46-75.).

During the last few years, a liaison with the ICES Workshop on Technical Development to Support Fisheries Data Collection (WKSEATEC) and IBTS took place. While progress in the Mediterranean has centred on implementation of standardized data checking routines across surveys, in the Atlantic and Baltic areas efforts converged towards progress in electronic data capture. Moving towards a wider implementation of paperless sampling during the measuring process using either purchased or developed in-house technology is a point to be further developed for the future in all the Mediterranean GSAs involved in the MEDITS project.

A question also rises on the use of data from scientific surveys such as MEDITS. Is the potential of this kind of information fully exploited? The usefulness of the MEDITS trawl survey time series also relies on the possibility of using these data in an assessment framework that allows them to be exploited to produce advice, even in situations in which fishery-dependent data are not available, as is being done in the ICES advice framework (Table 5).

Table 5. – Framework of stock categories based on available knowledge for the basis of advice in the ICES area (ICES Advice 2018; http://www.ices.dk/community/advisory-process/Pages/default.aspx). The ICES assessment category 3 is based on scientific survey data.

Stock categories Advice basis
1 Stocks with quantitative assessments Stocks with full analytical assessments and forecasts as well as stocks with quantitative assessments based on production models MSY approach
2 Stocks with analytical assessments and forecasts that are only treated qualitatively Stocks with quantitative assessments and forecasts which for a variety of reasons are considered indicative of trends in fishing mortality, recruitment and biomass MSY approach
3 Stocks for which survey-based assessments indicate trends Stocks for which survey or other indices are available that provide reliable indications of trends in stock metrics, such as total mortality, recruitment and biomass Precautionary approach, MSY approach being developed
4 Stocks for which only reliable catch data are available Stocks for which a time series of catch can be used to approximate MSY Precautionary approach, MSY approach being developed
5 Landings only stocks Stocks for which only landings data are available Precautionary approach
6 Negligible landings stocks and stocks caught in minor amounts as by-catch Stocks for which landings are negligible in comparison with discards and stocks that are primarily caught as by-catch species in other targeted fisheries Precautionary approach

Trawl surveys are also an accurate source of information for understanding the influence of climate change on fish populations, their communities and ecosystems. Many papers so far have tried to disentangle the effects of the anthropogenic pressure caused by fishing from the ones mainly driven by environmental variables linked to climate change, such as sea surface and bottom temperatures, using GAM modelling for example. This is a focus topic in this special issue, to better understand the underlying processes of tropicalization and its potential effect on demersal resources. Thus, it is becoming increasingly important to integrate existing knowledge on environmental drivers, fishing pressure and species interaction in the assessments of ecosystems and fisheries, in line with the ecosystem approach to fisheries management. Many papers in this special issue investigate these relationships.

Unlike in other European seas, where several trawl surveys have been historically conducted, in the Mediterranean MEDITS is the only scientific survey carried out for monitoring stocks of demersal species independently of fisheries biological sampling (EC 2016European Commission (EC). 2016. EU Commission Implementing Decision 2016. 2016/1251 of 12 July 2016 adopting a multiannual Union programme for the collection, management and use of data in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors for the period 2017-2019. 65 pp.). A second scientific trawl survey, placed in a different time quarter different from the current MEDITS survey could provide useful information to improve and expand the current assessment process and the present understanding of biological processes and dynamics. It can also further assist the implementation of an ecosystem approach to fishery management. Accurate information on cartilaginous fish populations, for example, is difficult to obtain from the commercial fishery, and a single survey cannot be sufficient. This proposal has been put to the STECF (2019)Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). 2019. Preparation for the evaluation of the list of mandatory research surveys at sea (STECF-19-05). Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.. The following aspects could be further improved with the availability of data from a second survey: i) capturing the most relevant biological events for a wide spectrum of stocks (e.g. different spawning seasons), including vulnerable species such as cartilaginous fish; ii) obtaining more accurate estimates of life history parameters (e.g. mortality and growth), in particular of vulnerable species; iii) improving estimates of recruitment indices; iv) obtaining more valuable records for estimating the stock-recruitment relationships; v) improving estimates of seasonal spatial occupation of the different components of the stocks, thus providing key information for a space/season fishery management (e.g. Spedicato 2015Spedicato M.T. 2015. Critical and protected habitats of the Mediterranean Sea: knowledge from the MAREA project and insights for the Maritime Spatial Planning. Biol. Mar. Medit. 22: 29-33.); and vi) allowing a more robust evaluation of changes in the population and community indicators.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSTop

The MEDITS surveys are carried out within the Data Collection Framework. The European Commission and Member States of the Mediterranean countries are thankfully acknowledged.

We are grateful to all the colleagues who contribute to the activities of the MEDITS trawl surveys and to the ones who initially paved the way for the progress of MEDITS in the Mediterranean.

REFERENCESTop

Abelló P., Bertrand J.A., De Sola L.G., et al. (eds). 2002. Mediterranean marine demersal resources: the MEDITS international trawl survey (1994-1999). Sci. Mar. 66(Suppl. 2): 1-280.
https://doi.org/10.3989/scimar.2002.66s2

Anonymous. 2017. MEDITS Handbook, Version n. 9. MEDITS Working Group, 106 pp.
http://www.sibm.it/MEDITS%202011/principaledownload.htm

Bertrand J.A., De Sola L.G., Papaconstantinou C., et al. 2002. The general specifications of the MEDITS surveys. Sci. Mar. 66(Suppl. 2): 9-17.
https://doi.org/10.3989/scimar.2002.66s2

Bitetto I., Facchini M.T., Spedicato M.T. 2019. RoME (version 1.4): R code to perform multiple checks on MEDITS Survey data (TA, TB, TC, TD, TT and TE files).
https://www.sibm.it/MEDITS%202011/RoME.htm

Brind’Amour A., Rochet M.J., Ordines F., et al. 2016. Environmental drivers explain regional variation of changes in fish and invertebrate functional groups across the Mediterranean Sea from 1994 to 2012. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 562: 19-35.
https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11912

Carbonara P., Follesa M.C. (eds). 2019. Handbook on fish age determination: a Mediterranean experience. Studies and Reviews. No. 98. Rome, FAO 180 pp.

Colloca F., Garofalo G., Bitetto I., et al. 2015. The seascape of demersal fish nursery areas in the North Mediterranean Sea, a first step towards the implementation of spatial planning for trawl fisheries. PLoS ONE 10: e0119590.
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0119590

Cotter J., Petitgas P., Abella A., et al. 2009a. Towards an ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM) when trawl surveys provide the main source of information. Aquat. Living Resour. 22: 243-254.
https://doi.org/10.1051/alr/2009025

Cotter J., Mesnil B., Witthames P., et al. 2009b. Notes on nine biological indicators estimable from trawl surveys with an illustrative assessment for North Sea cod. Aquat. Living Resour. 22: 135-153.
https://doi.org/10.1051/alr/2009016

Dremière P.-Y., Fiorentini L., Cosimi G., et al. 1999. Escapement from the main body of the bottom trawl used for the Mediterranean international trawl survey (MEDITS). Aquat. Living Resour. 12: 207-217.
https://doi.org/10.1016/S0990-7440(00)88471-5

Druon J.N., Fiorentino F., Murenu M., et al. 2015. Modelling of European hake nurseries in the Mediterranean Sea: an ecological niche approach. Prog. Oceanogr. 130: 188-204.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pocean.2014.11.005

European Commission (EC). 2013. Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy, Amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1954/2003 and (EC) No 1224/2009 and Repealing Council Regulations (EC) No 2371/2002 and (EC) No 639/2004 and Council Decision 2004/585/EC. European Commission, Brussels. 40 pp.

European Commission (EC). 2016. EU Commission Implementing Decision 2016. 2016/1251 of 12 July 2016 adopting a multiannual Union programme for the collection, management and use of data in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors for the period 2017-2019. 65 pp.

European Union (EU). 2008. Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 establishing a framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy (Marine Strategy Framework Directive).
http://data.europa.eu/eli/dir/2008/56/oj

European Union (EU). 2017. EU Regulation 2017/1004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2017 on the establishment of a Union framework for the collection, management and use of data in the fisheries sector and support for scientific advice regarding the common fisheries policy and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 199/2008 (recast)

FAO. 2018. Report of the twentieth session of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Fisheries. General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean. Tangiers, Morocco, 26-29 June 2018. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Report R1245, Rome, Italy. 225 pp.

Fiorentini L., Dremière P.Y. 1996. Efficacy and selectivity of the trawl used for the MEDITS project. IRPEM: 17 pp.

Fiorentini L., Cosimi G., Sala A., et al. 1996. Intercalibration des campagnes internationales de chalutage démersal en Méditerranée centrale. IRPEM. CE Med/93/015: 59 pp.

Fiorentini L., Dremière P.-Y., Leonori I., et al. 1999. Efficiency of the bottom trawl used for the Mediterranean international trawl survey (MEDITS). Aquat. Living Resour. 12: 187-205.
https://doi.org/10.1016/S0990-7440(00)88470-3

Fiorentino F., Massutí E., Tinti F., et al. 2015. Stock units: Identification of distinct biological units (stock units) for different fish and shellfish species and among different GFCM-GSA. STOCKMED Deliverable 03: Final Report. January 2015, 310 pp.
https://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/documentation/studies/stockmed_en

Follesa M.C., Carbonara P. (eds). 2019. Atlas of the maturity stages of Mediterranean fishery resources. Studies and Reviews, n. 99. Rome, FAO. 268 pp.

GFCM-SAC. 2002. Report of the fourth stock assessment Sub-Committee meeting (SCSA) Barcelona, Spain, 6-9 May. 118 pp.

Gaertner J.C., Mérigot B., Relini G., et al. 2010. Reproducibility of the multi-component aspect of species diversity through different areas and scales: towards the constitution of a shortlist of complementary indices for monitoring fish diversity? Ecography 33: 1123-1135.
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0587.2009.06259.x

Gaertner J.C, Maiorano P., Mérigot B., et al. 2013. Large-scale diversity of slope fishes: patterns inconsistency between multiple diversity indices. PLoS ONE 8: e66753.
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0066753

Galgani F., Souplet A., Cadiou Y. 1996. Accumulation of debris on the deep sea floor off the French Mediterranean coast. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 142: 225-234.
https://doi.org/10.3354/meps142225

Giannoulaki M., Belluscio A., Colloca F., et al. (eds). 2013. Mediterranean Sensitive Habitats. DG MARE Specific Contract SI2.600741, Final Report. 557 pp.

Granger V., Fromentin J.M., Bez N., et al. 2015. Large spatio-temporal monitoring highlights shift in Mediterranean fish diversity hotspots. Prog. Oceanogr. 130: 65-74.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pocean.2014.10.002

Gunderson D.R. 1993. Surveys of fisheries resources. Wiley. New York. 248 pp.

Hilborn R., Walters C.J. 1992. Quantitative fisheries stock assessment: Choice, dynamics and uncertainty. Chapman and Hall, New York. 570 pp.
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-3598-0

Keller S., Hidalgo M., Álvarez-Berastegui D., et al. 2017. Demersal cephalopod communities in the Mediterranean: a large-scale analysis. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 584: 105-118.
https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12342

ICES. 2017. Report of the Working Group on Biological Parameters (WGBIOP), 2-6 October 2017, Sardinia, Italy. ICES CM 2017/SSGIEOM:08. 129 pp.

Lembo G. (coord.). 2002. Stock Assessment in the Mediterranean. Final Report EU Project n° 99/047.

Lembo G. (coord.). 2010. Identification and localization of main nursery areas of demersal species in the Italian sea. NURSERY. Final report (VI Plan MIPAAF), Italian Biology Association- S.I.B.M., Genova. 119 pp.

Lembo G., Abella A., Fiorentino F., et al. 2009. ALADYM: an age and length-based single species simulator for exploring alternative management strategies. Aquat. Living Resour. 22: 233-241.
https://doi.org/10.1051/alr/2009024

Ligas A. (coord.). 2019. Recovery of fisheries historical time series for Mediterranean and Black Sea stock assessment RECFISH. SC 01 Final Report (Deliverable D0.4). Framework contract for the provision of scientific advice for the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. EASME/EMFF/2016/032. 95 pp.

Moriarty M., Greenstreet S.P.R., Rasmussen J., et al. 2019. Assessing the state of demersal fish to address formal ecosystem based management needs: making fisheries independent trawl survey data ‘fit for purpose’. Front. Mar. Sci. 6: 162.
https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2019.00162

Moullec F., Velez L., Verley P., et al. 2019. Capturing the big picture of Mediterranean marine biodiversity with an end-to-end model of climate and fishing impacts. Prog. Oceanogr. 178: 102179.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pocean.2019.102179

Needle C.L. 2003. Survey-based assessments with SURBA. Working Document to the ICES Working Group on Methods of Fish Stock Assessment, Copenhagen, 29 January - 5 February 2003.

Relini G. 2000. Demersal trawl surveys in the Italian seas: a short review. In: Bertrand J.A., Relini G. (eds), Demersal resources in the Mediterranean. Actes de Colloques, 26. IFREMER, Plouzane: pp. 46-75.

Relini G. 2015. Fish biodiversity in MEDITS surveys. Biol. Mar. Mediterr. 22: 176-177.

Relini G., Vallarino G. 2016. Species richness of Crustacea Decapoda in MEDITS surveys. Biol. Mar. Mediterr. 23: 277-278.

Relini G., Vallarino G. 2017. Cephalopods recorded during MEDITS surveys. Biol. Mar. Mediterr. 24: 216-217.

Rochet M.J., Trenkel V.M., Carpentier A., et al. 2010. Do changes in environmental and fishing pressures impact marine communities? An empirical assessment. J. Appl. Ecol. 47: 741-750.
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2010.01841.x

Souplet A. 1996. Calculation of abundance indices and length frequencies in the MEDITS survey. In: Bertrand J. (ed), Campagne internationale de chalutage démersal en Méditerranée (MEDITS). Campagne 1995 Vol. III. Rapport final de contrat CEEIFREMER-IEO-SIBM-NCMR (MED/93/020,018,006,004).

Spedicato M.T. 2015. Critical and protected habitats of the Mediterranean Sea: knowledge from the MAREA project and insights for the Maritime Spatial Planning. Biol. Mar. Medit. 22: 29-33.

Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). 2013. Assessment of Mediterranean Sea stocks part I (STECF 13-22). Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, EUR 26329 EN, JRC 86087. 400 pp.

Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). 2018a. Mediterranean Stock Assessments - Part 1 (STECF-18-12). Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.
https://doi.org/10.2760/838965

Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). 2018b. Mediterranean Stock Assessments - Part 2 (STECF-18-16). Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.
https://doi.org/10.2760/598716

Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). 2018c. Preparation for the evaluation of the list of mandatory research surveys at sea (STECF-18-04). Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.
https://doi.org/10.2760/956174

Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). 2019. Preparation for the evaluation of the list of mandatory research surveys at sea (STECF-19-05). Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Trenkel V.M., Rochet M.J., Mesnil B. 2007. From model-based prescriptive advice to indicator-based interactive advice. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 64: 768-774.
https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsm006

SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL

The following supplementary material is available through the online version of this article and at the following link:
http://scimar.icm.csic.es/scimar/supplm/sm04915esm.pdf

List of the papers peer reviewed (with or without impact factor) published between 2002 and 2017 and based on MEDITS data.



Copyright (c) 2020 Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Contact us scimar@icm.csic.es

Technical support soporte.tecnico.revistas@csic.es