Funding Programme: European Regional Development Fund Interreg 2 Seas Mers Zeeën

Project Coordinator: FROM Nord, France

Duration: 01/07/2017 – 30/06/2020

The ultimate goal of the SUMARiS project is to propose a cross-border strategy for the sustainable management of ray and skate stocks. Following the introduction of the new Common Fisheries Policy, from 2019 on, professional fishermen will have to land juvenile rays which do not meet the size criteria to be authorised for sale. Therefore, the project aims to anticipate the Landing Obligation by encouraging fishermen to adapt their fishing practices in order to avoid unwanted catch and/or release alive the rays. To address this issue, FROM Nord, a producer organization which represents French professional fishermen, has launched the European project SUMARiS – Sustainable Management of Rays & Skates.

The project will be carried out in the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom and France. The partner organizations involved in the project are hoping to develop scientific knowledge at biological and geographical levels (state of the stocks, reproduction cycle, survival rate, etc.) of the species located in the English Channel and the North Sea. The purpose is to allow the implementation of a sustainable management for these species, which would reflect the actual state of the different stocks that are present in the area.

To this end, during the 3 years of the project, different working axes have been and will be developed:

  • In 2018 a database about the ray species and their fisheries (landing, catch, demographic distribution and characteristics) has been assembled.
  • An atlas of ray populations in the English Channel and the North Sea has also been created.
  •  Between 2018 and 2019 partner organisations will carry out research on board of professional fishing vessels in Belgium, the United Kingdom and France. They will assess the survival rate of rays and test new release methods to increase it.
  • The research will continue on land – a sample of Thornback rays captured at the sea trips will be accommodated in Nausicaá. They will be monitored in tanks behind the scenes, in conditions that match their natural habitat in order to assess their survival rate in the long-term. The rays might be also researched upon to improve our knowledge of their reproduction and the development stages of juvenile rays.
  • A protocol has been developed by IFREMER and ILVO to estimate the growth and maturity of Thornback rays; age-length keys and maturity staging have now been identified.
  • A guide and trainings to help fishermen identify and handle catches of rays and skates more effectively have been developed.
  • In 2019 and 2020, stock assessment methods applicable to a variety of ray species will be developed and fisheries management options will be evaluated.