SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT OF SEA URCHINS: TOWARDS A BALANCE BETWEEN THE NEED FOR HARVESTING AND THE ECOSYSTEM CONSERVATION
The Scientific School RIMA – Sustainable management of sea urchins: towards a balance between the need for harvesting and the ecosystem conservation is organized by the IMC Foundation -International Marine Centre of Oristano in collaboration with the University of Genoa. The Scientific School will take place in Torregrande (Oristano, Italy) from 2nd to 6th May 2022. The school is addressed to students, graduates, PhD students, researchers, as well as to technical and human resources from public administration. The official language of the school is English.
Themes and purposes
Overfishing has led to the widespread collapse of many fish stocks and the consequent development in fisheries of invertebrates such as sea urchins. Due to the important ecological role played by these organisms, sea urchins fishing, besides the growing concern about the effects on ecosystems, has caused a re-evaluation of management practices for sustainable fishing. Many of the exploited sea urchin species play a key role for the coastal ecosystems. Sea urchins are among the most important macroherbivores that control, through grazing, the macroalgal community composition and the biodiversity of seabed on a local scale. The natural abundance of sea urchins is in turn controlled by top predators which are often target species of fishery. An uncontrolled increase of sea urchins caused by the lack of fish predators due to overfishing, as well as a drastic reduction of them caused by over-harvesting, may have important ecological effects at both population and community levels.
From a management perspective, understanding the biological traits and the fragile ecological mechanisms supporting biodiversity and in which sea urchins are primarily involved, is the first fundamental step for planning effective actions of ecosystem conservation and sustainable fishery on a local scale.
Among the main issues, RIMA will focus on the tri-trophic interactions “fish-sea urchins-macroalgae” of Mediterranean rocky reef involving the edible sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus, the effects of human overexploitation on the ecological balance, the local policy to contrast ecosystem degradation, up to the exploration of the management methods adopted in different regions of Europe.
RIMA aims to provide highly specialized training to develop and strengthen the skills of students, young researchers and operators of both public and private sectors working in the conservation of coastal ecosystems and in fishery management. The state of the art, the necessary scientific and technical skills, good practices and future prospects for the management of the sea urchin resource will be explored with a particular focus on Sardinian context. Participants will deepen, through the know-how transfer from high-level scientific profiles and in a multidisciplinary way, issues related to the biology and ecology of the sea urchins, the effects of change in the natural abundance of the populations, the restoration of natural abundance through management and restructuring of ecosystems and, finally, the simulations of predictive ecological models.
The program includes lectures, practical laboratory and data analysis sessions, encouraging the exchange of experiences between experts and students.
Target of the Scientific School
RIMA is open to students and graduates in scientific disciplines, PhD students, researchers and operators of managing bodies of marine protected areas and technicians in the sector of conservation, fishing and management of marine bio-resources. The goal is to train highly specialized personnel to be assigned to public and private bodies and competent administrations in the field of research, management and monitoring of sea urchin fishing and environmental protection with particular regard to Sardinia.
The Scientific School is organized to offer students a balanced path between theoretical and practical sessions and to encourage the exchange of experiences. Participants will have the opportunity to interact intensively with teachers throughout the school (including during meal times, breaks and free evening activities). All participants, including teachers, will have the opportunity to stay in the same hotel for the entire duration of the school.
No registration fees are required to participate in the RIMA Scientific School. However, all participants must take part in the entire event, both lectures, laboratory and informal activities.
The maximum number of participants is 15 students, a limitation due to practical laboratory activities. The RIMA Scientific School will be activated upon reaching the minimum number of 12 students. Should the applications exceed the available places, a list of those admitted will be drawn up taking into account both the curriculum of studies and the chronological order of receipt of the application.
Understanding of English language is required.
RIMA will take place through lectures in the classroom and practical activities in the laboratory at the facilities of the IMC Foundation. The School will last 5 days and one morning will be dedicated to a workshop open to local stakeholders.
The contents of the RIMA Scientific School can conceptually be divided into five main topics:
1. Biology, ecology and population dynamics of sea urchins
Knowing the biology and the population dynamics of sea urchins is essential to ensure an effective management of the species. The lecture sessions will focus on: biology and ecology of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus; reproduction and recruitment; natural growth and natural mortality (e.g. predation, diseases, exceptional events); environmental factors influencing these ecological processes. The practical sessions will support the theoretical ones and will allow students to get into close touch with the species functioning and behavior.
2. Over-harvesting and possible management actions
The direct and indirect effects of harvesting can affect both the sea urchin population and the benthic communities. Understanding the mechanisms that regulate these effects is essential for developing an efficient resource regulation plan. In the theoretical section, harvesting effects will be addressed both at the population and at the community level. Some experiences of management aimed at the recovery of natural densities of the resource, such as restocking, will be presented.
3. Over-grazing and possible management actions
Opposite effects are observed when the densities of urchins increase (for both natural and human induced reasons), In fact, one of the most widespread problems in the Mediterranean Sea is linked to overfishing of predatory fish that control sea urchin populations, causing uncontrolled proliferations that in the most relevant cases determine irreversible habitat-shifts with loss of macroalgae and biodiversity over large spatial scales. The RIMA Scientific School will address the knowledge on the effects of overfishing in an efficient management plan of the resources. In the theoretical section, examples related to the overgrazing effects at the community level will be exposed. Some actions to contain populations and to recover algal cover (restoration) will be described.
4. Population monitoring and modeling methods
One of the most critical points to monitor the resource is the high spatial and temporal variability in the abundance and distribution of sea urchins along the coast. It is therefore evident the importance of exploring predictive models both relative to population dynamics, based on trophic interactions and to larval diffusion to estimate the intensity of populations’ connectivity. In the theoretical lessons, the operational principles of models will be showed. This part of the RIMA Scientific School will allow students to understand the potential of these predictive tools for sustainable harvesting and ecosystem conservation planning. A practical lesson will also be prepared in which the students will be able to carry out simulations
5. Management strategies
In Northern Europe as well as in other parts of the world, few management plans have been implemented to optimize sea urchin harvesting and make it sustainable over time. In this regard, experts from Norway and Iceland will present to the students their experience in management plans from their Countries participating to the Northern Periphery and the Arctic funded URCHIN project.
A thematic workshop will be organized as a satellite initiative within the RIMA Scientific School. The workshop is addressed in particular to local stakeholders such as directors of Marine Protected Areas, Fisheries Department and all public administrations involved in fisheries management and marine conservation. The initiative will involve all the research institutions of Sardinia and will aim to present the results of research activities devoted to the sustainability of fisheries and to foster opportunities / future challenges for the development of sea urchin conservation plan in Sardinia.
Below is the link for more details on the RIMA Scientific School and the registration form.
The application form must be completed before 6th March 2022.
A CV and a copy of the ID card must be attached.
Participants will receive a notification of acceptance by 4th April 2022.