Spatial and temporal Adaptation of a traditional Mediterranean fishery facing Regional Change:

COmbining history and ecoLogy to study past, prEsent and future of sponge HarVEsting.


The following questionnaire aims to obtain an actual (XXIst century) picture of the distribution of bath sponges and its fishery at a Mediterranean scale. Your knowledge as well as your sources of information interest us. By agreeing to help us, you will have to position points with information concerning the current situation on the proposed map of the Mediterranean Sea.



Thierry PEREZ (Sponge ecology, IMBE, France), Daniel FAGET (History and fisheries, TELEMME, France), Maïa FOURT (PhD, IMBE).

Jamila BENSOUISSI (Marine biology and ficheries, INAT, Tunisia), Thierry BOTTI (communication, Pytheas, France), Catherine CYPREOS (Sponge trade, France-Greece), Drosos KOUTSOUBAS (Marine ecology, University of the Aegean, Greece), Patrick RAIMBAULT (Oceanography, marine environment, MIO, France), Samuel ROBERT (Geography and spatialisation, ESPACE, France), Marie ROMANI and Chloé WEBSTER (Management of marine protected areas, MedPAN, France), Ioannis SPILANIS (Island socio-ecosystems, U. Aegean, Greece), Romain Suarez (database and webmaster, Labex OT-Med), Jean VACELET (Sponge taxonomy, IMBE, France).

The production of Mediterranean bath sponges collapsed during the past century as shown by Tunisian catches which fell from 163 tons in 1920 down to 9 tons in 1988 (Josupeit, 1990). Another illustration is given by the well-known sponge fishing island of Kalymnos which lost about 90% of its active fishermen population in a century between 1858 and 1967 (Bernard 1967, Valla, 2012).

For what reasons a Mediterranean traditional fishery, once prosperous, has suddenly dramatically declined? What part of the drop can be attributed to the decline of the bath sponge stock? How can this collapse of the sponge fishery be related to changes in uses, overfishing, disease outbreaks triggered by environmental extreme events? How did sponge fishermen adapt to the Regional Change? What is the future of such a fishery ? What kind of guidelines can we provide for this fishery facing the on-going Regional Change ?

To answer these questions, SACOLEVE looks through ecological and historical windows into past evolution of the sponge fishery, chosen here as model of a traditional fishery which suffered good number of upheavals over the last three centuries. The overreaching aim of this program is to propose a management strategy for traditional fisheries that will allow attaining eco-durable practices in the current environmental, socio-economic and geopolitical contexts.