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Survey and TReament ON Ghost Nets Sea LIFE

Reference: LIFE20 NAT/IT/000067 | Acronym: STRONG_ SEA LIFE



Several human actions affect marine ecosystems stability: harbour construction, pollution, trawling, uncontrolled anchoring, and increasing pressure of fishing activities. Abandoned, Lost or otherwise Discarded Fishing Gear (hereinafter ALDFG) is of increasing concern. An estimated 640 000 tons of ghost fishing gear are lost each year in the marine environment. ALDFG are very persistent marine litter, degrading into microplastics, impacting fish stocks and benthic environments, and affecting food security. Impacts on the Natura 2000 habitats ‘Posidonia beds (Posidonia oceanica)’ (1120*) and ‘Reefs’ (1170) include smothering, abrasion, detachment of organisms and meshes closing around them, translocation of sea-bed features. These impacts cause degradation of habitats, mechanical damage to biological structures, affect production of crustose algae, and increase turbidity and sedimentation rates. The reduced amount of light, and altered current flow and sedimentation rates, for instance, affect the normal growth of Posidonia (seagrass) meadows.


The objective of the STRONG SEA LIFE project is to protect and improve the conservation status of the Habitats Directive priority habitat ‘Posidonia beds (Posidonia oceanica)’ (1120*)  and the habitat ‘Reefs’ (1170). The project’s seven study areas are in the Gulf of Asinara (including Asinara National Park), and the north western Sardinia coast (Mare di Fuori).

Specific aims are:

  • Preservation, conservation and improvement of Posidonia beds and reef habitats threatened by the presence of ALDFG;
  • Data collection on biodiversity and marine litter at local level;
  • Increase in socio-economic value associated with these habitats and the associated species, both of protectionist and fishery interest;
  • Reconnaissance, survey and mapping of abandoned fishing gear in areas not yet investigated, selected on the basis of data previously collected, but also on environmental relevance and ecosystem services offered, including those related to fishing activities (e.g. fish nurseries);
  • Recovery of ALDFG, by assessing potential damage that retrieval could cause compared to making safe or deactivating submerged fishing gear;
  • Updating and integrating the cartography and the database related to the distribution of sensitive marine environments;
  • Design and development of a virtuous supply chain, starting from recovery and selecting materials for fishing gear that allows correct disposal and, where possible, recycling;
  • Development of a software application dedicated to mobile devices, to report in an easy and immediate way, both the loss/finding of ALDFG by fishermen, recreational divers and boaters;
  • Drafting of guidelines, issued by ISPRA as governmental agency, on monitoring and recovery of ghost nets, based on the evaluation of feasibility and convenience in ecological terms, paying special attention to the recovery methods in order to protect coralligenous and Posidonia oceanica biocenoses;
  • Definition of specific conservation measures for marine habitats, in collaboration with Regione Sardegna, on the basis of developed guidelines;
  • Promote dissemination of actions, results and guidelines internationally (France, Greece, Croatia) thanks to support of partners, Healthy Seas and Flag Capodistria;
  • Growth of awareness in fishermen and in the general public.

The project supports the Biodiversity Strategy 2030 and contributes to the Habitats Directive and Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSDF), through its innovative approach to marine litter. It is also relevant to the EU Water Framework Directive, EU Common Fisheries Policy, and the Integrated Maritime Policy.


Expected results:

  • At least 50 actions at sea are planned, each allowing the recovery of about 6 quintals of nets (600 kg), plus pots;
  • Based on forecasts and previous data used, about 500 q of ALDFG will be collected, cleaning 6 000 ha of underwater surface during the project and another 600 ha in 3 years after its end;
  • The removal of physical disturbance on Posidonia beds habitat will stop seagrass meadow destruction, with 2 300 ha improved and 11% habitat extension in the project area;
  • The elimination of smothering/abrasion effects and mechanical disturbance on the reef habitat will allow correct formation of biological structures, with 800 ha improved and 6% of habitat extension in the project area;
  • In both habitats the expected impact is the increase of fish species saved from passive fishing, therefore increasing catchable biomass (CPUE: kg/average fishing day) of selected species: Sciena umbra: +22% in traps and +2% in nets; Homarus gammarus: +2% nets; Octopus vulgaris: +21% traps and +2% nets;
  • Additional indirect impact will be the protection from mechanical damage of the critically endangered mollusc Pinna nobilis (Annex IV Habitats Directive), currently impacted by an endoparasite (Haplosporidium pinnae) bearing a fatal pathogenic disease;
  • Survey of about 75 000 ha, concentrating activities in identified ALDFG hotspots;
  • Guidelines for environmental protection from ALDFG, defining a standardised protocol on recovery methods; and
  • Greater awareness and collaboration of fishermen, with active involvement of at least 70% of fishermen in the area estimated.


Reference: LIFE20 NAT/IT/000067
Start Date: 01/10/2021
End Date: 30/09/2026
Total Eligible Budget: 2,760,098 €
EU Contribution: 1,534,469 €


Coordinating Beneficiary: Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale
Legal Status: PAT
Address: Via Brancati, 48, 00144, Roma,
Contact Person: Serena Lomiri
Email: Send Email
Website: Visit Website

LIFE Project Map



  • Marine and Coastal management
  • Marine
  • Sensitive and protected areas management
  • Plants
  • Fisheries
  • Waste recycling


  • marine ecosystem
  • waste recycling
  • sensitive area
  • coastal management


  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directive (21.05.1992)
  • Directive 2008/56 - Framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy (Marine Strategy Framework Directive) (17.06.2008)
  • Directive 2000/60 - Framework for Community action in the field of water policy (23.10.2000)
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020” (03.05.2011)


  • 1120 - Posidonia beds (Posidonion oceanicae)
  • 1170 - Reefs


Type Code Name
SCI ITB010082 Isola dell'Asinara


Name Type
AGRIS(Agris Sardegna Agenzia per la ricerca in agricoltura), Italy Participant
CFVA(Corpo Forestale e di Vigilanza Ambientale), Italy Participant
Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research Coordinator