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Total apparent fishing days

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The vessels* that were observed to be apparently fishing inside the No Trawl Area during this period were:
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Confirmed infractions



The MSA on-line ATLAS is a tool which aims to give a comprehensive mapping of areas (fully described in the glossary) where bottom trawling is permanently banned, and evidence, presumed or confirmed, that this activity nevertheless takes place, for different reasons such as the lack of enforcement of rules among others.

We distinguished between confirmed and presumed infractions. 

Confirmed infractions are cases of reported infringements,  analyzed by MedReAct from media (January 2018 – December 2020) and national control authorities (January 2018 – June 2021), related to illegal bottom trawling in areas permanently closed to this fishing activity. 

Those are indicated using a cluster icon pin with a number representing the number of confirmed infractions in that area.


Cases of confirmed infractions

France and Spain

45 media outlets analysed.

7 infractions for ES.

3 infractions for FR.


1086 media outlets analysed.

44 infractions found in the media.

91 official Italian Coast Guard local webpages.

information on 84 infractions directly provided by the Italian Coast Guard.

North Africa

193 media outlets analysed.

Egypt: 46

Tunisia: 56

Algeria: 49

Morocco: 42

2 infractions in ALG

1 infraction in MAR


35 media outlets analysed.

34 infractions.

Presumed infractions are cases compiled by analysis of Global Fishing Watch AIS data, used to identify apparent fishing activity of trawlers inside areas (January 2020 – December 2021), mapped by MedReAct and by Archipelagos for Greece, where bottom trawling is permanently prohibited. 

Presumed infractions are grouped using the cluster icon 3 and indicated with the trawler icon trawler-icon

According to EU regulation, the Automatic Identification System (AIS), which is a device containing a GPS unit, is required for fishing vessels over 15 meters in length

Global Fishing Watch AIS data were used to identify apparent fishing activity of trawlers inside areas where bottom trawling is permanently prohibited. 

When a fishing vessel was recorded as apparently fishing by Global Fishing Watch detection algorithm inside areas closed to bottom trawling then a presumed infraction was recorded.

This algorithm is a best effort mathematically to identify “apparent fishing activity.” As a result, it is possible that some fishing activity is not identified as such by Global Fishing Watch; conversely, Global Fishing Watch may show apparent fishing activity where fishing is not actually taking place.

Number of protected areas with presumed infractions by country

Italy 14
of which 6 areas (37,5%) are inside Natura 2000 sites
France 8
of which 7 areas (88%) are inside Natura 2000 sites
Spain 6
of which 6 areas (100%) are inside Natura 2000 sites
Greece 4
of which 2 areas (50%) are inside Natura 2000 sites

Natura2000 areas with most presumed infractions

  • Spain - Costes Garraf
  • Greece - Esoteriko Archipelagos Ioniou - Meganisi, Arkoudi, Atokos, Vromonas -
  • Italy - Litorale di Gallipoli e Isola S. Andrea
Analyzed protected areas


Explore the map of

the protected areas

in the Mediterranean sea

Highlighted in orange are vessels for which the secondary gear—as reported in the only publicly available database, the EU fleet register—might be authorized to operate in the protected area of interest.

The Global Fishing Watch algorithm classified the vessel activity as trawling; however the vessel might have been using its secondary gear during the recorded activity. The Global Fishing Watch algorithm currently considers all vessels that are towing a net. The algorithm does not discriminate mid – water trawlers from bottom trawlers. Furthermore, the Global Fishing Watch algorithm does not classify gear on a trip basis, thus vessels that might switch for a short period of time might be misclassified. Global Fishing Watch analysts perform a quality assessment of the data and a manual review of the tracks of the vessels, aiming to remove tracks that might generate noise in interpreting the data.


Any and all references to “fishing” should be understood in the context of Global Fishing Watch’s fishing detection algorithm, which is a best effort to determine “apparent fishing effort” based on data from the Automatic Identification System (AIS) collected via satellites and terrestrial receivers.

As AIS data varies in completeness, accuracy and quality, it is possible that some fishing effort is not identified and conversely, that some fishing effort identified is not fishing. For these reasons, Global Fishing Watch qualifies all designations of vessel fishing effort, including synonyms of the term “fishing effort,” such as “fishing” or “fishing activity,” as “apparent,” rather than certain.

Global Fishing Watch’s open data is used in this report. Global Fishing Watch uses data about a vessel’s identity, type, location, speed, direction and so on which is broadcast using the automatic identification system (AIS) and collected via satellites and terrestrial receivers. AIS was originally developed to avoid collisions and for safety. Global Fishing Watch analyzes AIS data collected from vessels that our research has identified as known or possible commercial fishing vessels, and applies a fishing detection algorithm to determine “apparent fishing activity” based on changes in vessel speed and direction. The algorithm classifies each AIS broadcast data point for these vessels as either apparently fishing or not fishing and shows the former on the Global Fishing Watch fishing activity heat map. AIS data broadcast may vary in completeness, accuracy and quality. Also, data collection via satellites or terrestrial receivers may introduce errors due to missing or inaccurate data. Global Fishing Watch’s fishing detection algorithm is a best effort mathematically to identify “apparent fishing activity.” As a result, it is possible that some fishing activity is not identified as such by Global Fishing Watch; conversely, Global Fishing Watch may show apparent fishing activity where fishing is not actually taking place. For these reasons, Global Fishing Watch qualifies designations of vessel fishing activity, including synonyms of the term “fishing activity,” such as “fishing” or “fishing effort,” as “apparent,” rather than certain. Any Global Fishing Watch information about “apparent fishing activity” should be considered merely an estimate and must be relied upon solely at your own risk. Global Fishing Watch is taking steps ensure fishing activity designations are as accurate as possible. Global Fishing Watch fishing detection algorithms are developed and tested using actual fishing event data collected by observers, combined with expert analysis of vessel movement data, resulting in the manual classification of thousands of known fishing events. Global Fishing Watch also collaborates extensively with academic researchers through our research program to share fishing activity classification data and automated classification techniques.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires AIS use by all vessels >500GT, for any vessel >300GT that is on an “international voyage” and for all passenger vessels: IMO Revised Guidelines for the Onboard Operation Use of Shipborne AIS – A.1106(29) 22 AIS should always be in operation when ships are underway or at anchor. If the master believes that the continual operation of AIS might compromise the safety or security of the ship, or where security incidents are imminent, AIS may be switched off. Unless it would further compromise the safety or security, if the ship is operating within a mandatory ship reporting system, the master should report this action and the reason for doing so to the competent authority.
In addition, many countries and intergovernmental agencies such as regional fisheries management organizations are creating AIS requirements within their waters, so we expect an increase in AIS use in the coming years. For example, as of May 31, 2014, all European Union flagged fishing vessels over 15 meters (m) in length are required to be equipped with AIS and as of March 1, 2016, all commercial U.S. flagged fishing vessels over 65 feet in length are required to be equipped with AIS.
Two key factors that affect the completeness and accuracy of footprints derived from AIS analysis are its use and reception. AIS must be installed and broadcast in order to be detected. AIS reception is a measure of how likely it is for a vessel’s AIS message to be received correctly by the existing network of satellites and terrestrial antennas placed along the world’s coastlines. In regions of the world with high maritime traffic, AIS signals can interfere with each other, reducing reliable satellite reception.
A recent study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Global Fishing Watch found that in the Mediterranean almost 100 percent of vessels over 15 m use AIS. However, AIS captures mostly trawlers and purse seiners and often fails to capture other gears that are commonly used by smaller vessels in the Mediterranean, such as set-gillnets or long-liners. In fact, around 50 percent of the Mediterranean fleet comprises vessels less than 12 meters in length. Fishing activity in the Southeastern Mediterranean Sea is poorly represented in AIS data compared to the Northern part of the Mediterranean. The lack of AIS use in this area is mainly due to limited on-board transmitters and terrestrial receptors.
This report is an output of the Med Sea Alliance, a movement created in 2020 to bring together non-governmental organizations and other citizens’ groups working to improve the health and productivity of the Mediterranean Sea. As a member of the Med Sea Alliance, Global Fishing Watch has contributed to the AIS-based analysis included in this report. The designations employed and the presentation of the material in this report do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of Global Fishing Watch and the Med Sea Alliance concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area, including protected areas, or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.
Any reproduction, partial or complete, must be done in accordance with the rules below, and mention the title and credit the below-mentioned publisher as the copyright owner.

MedSeaAlliance 2022, Atlas of bottom trawling in protected areas in the Mediterranean Sea https://www.medseaalliance.org/

  • This project addresses illegal trawling in areas permanently closed to this activity.
  • Coordinates of some area closures may not be accurate because in some cases the exact location was not available. 
  • When the coordinates were missing, in the map we refer to the approximate location indicated in the media outlet, within a range of 3 nautical miles from the location reported on the news. 
  • For Turkey, it was not possible to map all infringements because the area coordinates were not available. 
  • Concerning infractions detected in coastal areas, in some cases their location is described as being between two points along the coast, but in the Atlas only the first of  these points  is identified on the map. The complete news with all the supporting information is provided. 
  • Infractions reported by the media cover a period from  January 2018 to December 2020.  Lists of infractions provided by the national control authorities cover a period from  January 2018 to June 2021. 
  • For consistency purposes, the date of the infringement reflects the first day that the infringement case was published by the media. For the list of infringements of the national control authorities the  date is the one reported.
  • Infringements where it was not explicitly specified whether the vessel involved was using a trawl net, or where the infringement did not concern an authorized  fishing  vessel or vessels operating outside their national waters, were not considered for the purpose of this Atlas.
  • According to the EU Regulation on Mediterranean Fisheries (EC 1967/2006), the use of towed gears is prohibited within 3 nautical miles of the coast, and trawl nets are banned within 1.5 nautical miles from the coast. Under certain conditions, and in particular when the depth is greater than 50 meters, trawling may be allowed from 0.7 miles off the coast. Furthermore, Article 4.4 of Regulation (EC 1967/2006) introduced a prohibition of fishery with trawl nets in all Natura 2000 sites designated for the conservation of seagrass beds, coralligenous habitats and maerl beds. The only derogation to this measure is applicable only to fishing vessels below 12 meters which are not covered by this atlas.
  • According to GFCM Recommendation GFCM/42/2018/2 on fisheries management measures for the conservation of sharks and rays in the GFCM area of application, fishing activities carried out with trawl nets are prohibited within 3 nautical miles off the coast, provided that the 50 metre isobath is not reached, or within the 50 metre isobath where that depth is reached at a shorter distance from the coast.
Presumed infraction

These are cases that are compiled by Global Fishing Watch with the use of their AIS data and following ad hoc analyses of different countries.

Confirmed infraction

These are cases that are compiled by MedReact through media outlet research and information released directly by the control authorities or reported in the news.

For the mapping, when available details of specific areas are included.
For areas where specific information was not found the type of protection and the name of the region is provided. The Atlas will be regularly updated with additional information.

For the list of all mapped areas divided by country, click here