Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

EU Project Launched to Help Reduce Bycatch of Protected and Endangered Atlantic Species

24th February 2024
A young fisherman in black waders on board a fishing vessel drops out parts of fish as hungry seagulls swoop to catch them
The Marine Beacon project will work with fisheries, policy and conservation stakeholders to develop tools for better monitoring of important species and mitigating risks of bycatch, to ensure healthier seas and more sustainable fisheries Credit: Jacek Dylag/Unsplash

A major new European project aims to improve our understanding of how the bycatch of fisheries impacts protected, endangered and threatened species (PETS) in the Atlantic Ocean, and develop methods for better monitoring and mitigating these impacts.

Funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme, Marine Beacon (Monitoring and elimination of bycatch of endangered and conserved species in the NE and high seas Atlantic region) will address gaps in current understanding of how bycatch impacts PETS.

It will also work with fisheries, policy and conservation stakeholders to develop and test innovative tools and techniques for better monitoring of important species and mitigating risks of bycatch, to ensure healthier seas and more sustainable fisheries.

Bycatch — the unintentional capture of non-target marine wildlife during fishing — is recognised as a major threat to marine species globally, particularly marine mammals, seabirds, turtles and sensitive fish species, as well as the ecosystems that rely on these creatures.

Yet monitoring of these species and their interactions with fishing in such a dynamic and challenging environment has often been ineffective.

Advancements in bycatch mitigation and elimination have lagged behind the urgency of the issue, with many proposed solutions failing to adequately take into account the differing realities of diverse fisheries and lacking sufficient input from relevant industry and policy stakeholders.

In order to address the issue of biodiversity decline in our Atlantic regions and help the recovery of these ecosystems and their services, Marine Beacon brings together 21 research, technology, and fisheries partners from nine countries.

Together they will work across our regional seas to identify significant gaps in our monitoring and understanding of bycatch, and to introduce innovative knowledge and tools to better understand bycatch risk and vulnerability.

By inclusively collaborating with key stakeholders in the fisheries, policy and conservation sectors, Marine Beacon aims to ensure that new, cutting-edge monitoring and mitigation tools are effective and feasible, providing long-term applicability and impact beyond the lifetime of the project.

The project has six key objectives:

  • Engage with key stakeholder groups to build mutual understanding on how to effectively mitigate against the bycatch of PETS.
  • Improve our knowledge of how PETS intersect with bycatch and identify how improved survey and monitoring design can fill gaps in data.
  • Evaluate the specific risk posed by fisheries bycatch to the vulnerability status of PETS.
  • Advance next generation monitoring solutions, design optimal monitoring programmes and accelerate EU monitoring programmes to better achieve EU biodiversity strategy 2030 targets for eliminating or reducing PETS bycatch.
  • Develop state of the art mitigation solutions that reduce bycatch and where possible eliminate associated mortalities.
  • Create integrated bycatch management decision support tools to help Member States’ respective management programmes achieve their objectives.

Marine Beacon was launched on Wednesday 21 February and will run for four-and-a-half years. It is coordinated by Ireland’s Marine Institute and comprises an expert team from Belgium, Denmark, France, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the UK. For more information, follow on LinkedIn and X (formerly Twitter) at @MarineBEACON_EU.

Published in Marine Wildlife, Fishing Team

About The Author Team

Email The Author is Ireland's dedicated marine journalism team.

Have you got a story for our reporters? Email us here.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open. is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!