CopeMed II is a project under the responsibility of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Management Division (FIMF). Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Rome.

Coordination to Support Fisheries Management in the Western and Central Mediterranean.
CopeMed Phase II

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The capacity to quantitatively assess the status of fisheries stocks and evaluate the trade-offs of management actions is an important asset to make informed decisions in fisheries management. Most well management fisheries rely on some form of stock assessment as basis for management advice, varying from the data demanding and costly methods used in large-scale and high-value fisheries to the less data intensive approaches used in some small-scale fisheries.

In the context of the Mediterranean and Black Sea region, FAO have a long history of actions towards the improvement of the knowledge on the status of stocks as well as the management of fisheries, namely through the work of the General Fisheries Commission of the Mediterranean (GFCM) and the FAO Regional Projects (AdriaMed, CopeMed, EastMed and MedSudMed). The European Commission Joint Research Center has been giving stock assessment trainings since 2012 to support the stock assessment technical groups of the STECF Committee in both Mediterranean and Black Sea. Despite the observed improvements in the quantity and quality of the stock assessments in the region, there are still large differences in technical capacities on new methods and tools among Mediterranean and Black Sea countries, hampering a more productive collaboration in the assessment of stocks at the sub-regional level as well as in the provision of advice in support of decision making.

In addition, a large number of stocks remain unassessed because of inadequate data and/or approaches to deal with assessments in data-limited situations. Closing these gaps will require a continuous improvement of national capacities in fish stock assessment through appropriate education and training programmes. Such improvements will be instrumental to meet the objectives of the Mid-term Strategy (2017–2020) and the EU Common Fisheries Policy towards the sustainability of Mediterranean and Black Sea fisheries, promoted respectively by the GFCM and the European Commission Joint Research Center in collaboration with other relevant partners and with the participation of the FAO Fisheries Department.


With the objective to enhance and maintain a high level of technical expertise in fish stock assessment in the region, FAO, GFCM and JRC are organizing a “Summer School in Quantitative Fisheries Stock Assessment”. The summer school is intended to offer a regular and extended learning opportunity to fisheries scientists from the Mediterranean and Black Sea to keep up to date with new methods and tools for the assessment of stocks, and with the ultimate aim to create a pool of experts that can enhance the provision of advice on the status of stocks within the framework of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Fisheries (SAC) of the GFCM and the stock assessment EWGs of the STECF.

The summer school is planned to run every year for two weeks during the summer months, to avoid overlaps with other technical and statutory meetings of GFCM, FAO Mediterranean Regional Projects and STECF EWGs.


The summer school will run from 10 – 22 July 2017 and take place in Institute for Marine and Coastal Environment (IAMC-CNR) in Capo Granitola, Sicily (Italy).


The school is intended for fisheries scientists engaged in stock assessment within fisheries departments, research institutes and non-governmental organizations in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, as well as to young scientists seeking specialization in applied quantitative methods for natural resources management.


The summer school will combine theoretical lectures with practical, hands-on sessions where researches will have the chance to work on case study data sets and/or their own data sets.

The course will be divided in two consecutive Modules of 5 days each, with a week end break between Modules. Optional field trips to sites of interest in surrounding areas could be organized during the days of break.

The course will be based on the R language for statistical computing and graphics. The first Module will provide participants with some basic understanding of how to work with R to handle and analyse data, with a focus on fisheries data, including carrying basic statistical analysis. Students with advanced knowledge of R are not advised to take this Module. The second Module will introduce some of the most common stock assessment methods currently in use, varying from data-demanding to data-poor methods. Participation to the second module is conditional on a proved intermediate knowledge of R or participation to the first module. During the second module, some lectures covering the full advisory process from data collection, data preparation, stock assessment, forecasting and management strategy evaluation, setting quotas or effort limitations will be given. A more detailed outline of the course content will be provided in due time. The specific contents of the Modules would be adapted yearly, depending on identified needs and demands in the region.


Module 1: Data exploration and analysis using R (5 days)

  • Import data from a multitude of sources

  • Explore, manipulate, summarize and plot data

  • Analyze biological data (e.g., growth functions, maturity ogives, age length keys, weight-length relationships, age slicing, etc.

  • Explore and map georeferenced data (i.e. survey indices)

  • Standardization of catch and effort data (e.g. GLMs)

  • Compile assessment data (i.e. catch-at age, maturity-at-age, etc.)

  • Population dynamics principles: cohort dynamics, mortality rates (fishing/natural), Spawner Recruitment relations.

Module 2: Stock assessment in R and formulation of management advice (5 days)

  • Overview of types of stock assessment methods, their advantages and limitations

    • Introduction to FLR (Fisheries Library in R) package.

  • Theoretical and practical/hands-on work on selected stock assessment methods, including*:

    • Methods for data-limited stocks (catch-only models and length based methods)

    • Biomass dynamic models (ASPIC, SPICT)

    • Extended Survival Analysis (XSA)

    • Statistical Catch at Age (a4a)

    • Reference Points

  • Formulation of management advice (lectures/presentations)

    • Approaches for the management of fisheries in the Mediterranean and elsewhere

    • Model projections and reference points

    • Introduction to the Management Strategy Evaluation approach for management advice

    • How to present the results of stock assessment for management advice

*Other methods could be covered depending on interest and data availability, to be indicated by participants upon registration.


The modules will be delivered in English. The course is intended for fisheries scientists and will assume a basic understanding of population dynamics, fisheries biology, basic statistics and quantitative data analysis. Basic knowledge of programming language(s), including R, will be desirable for Module 1 and intermediate knowledge of R will be a requirement for Module 2.


All software used throughout the course will be open-source and freely available for download from the internet. Participants will be required to provide their own laptops which should, ideally, be wi-fi enabled.
A specific share point will be created to store course material and data used during the training as well as to provide an online follow-up support after the training.


Registration is free and open to fisheries researchers working in the Mediterranean and Black Sea countries. Maximum attendance is 25 participants. Considering the limited availability of seats, preference will be given to applicants from different countries.

In order to apply for the school, applicants should submit a registration form and short CV (REGISTRATION CLOSED) indicating which Module they wish to attend. Applicants are also required to indicate if they are interested in using their own data during the course, describing the species/fisheries/areas and data available for the stock. Although participants will have some opportunity to work with their own data set during the course, due to time constrains, most of the hands on training sessions will be based on case study data sets provided by the trainers.

Limited financial support is available to cover the travel and living expenses while attending the school. The allocation of the funds will be based on the analysis of the applications and will be preferably given to researchers from developing countries.


The school will be hosted by Institute for Marine and Coastal Environment (IAMC-CNR) in Capo Granitola ( The IAMC-CNR is placed along the southwestern Sicilian coast (Italy) in the Municipality of Campobello di Mazara. Participants will be accommodated in hotels in Mazara del Vallo (10 minutes driving distance) and commute daily to IAMC-CNR by shuttle bus.

Mazara is widely considered to be one of the most important fishing centres of Italy. Its port gives shelter to the largest fishing fleet in Italy. There are numerous venues for dinner as well as opportunities for walking and sightseeing through the city and in surrounding areas. It is about 90 km southwest from the international airport in Palermo and 60 km from the airport in Trapani.


Marcelo Vasconcellos
FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department

Miguel Bernal
General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean

Giacomo Chato Osio
European Commission Joint Research Center

Francesco Colloca
Istituto per l’Ambiente Marino Costiero
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (IAMC-CNR)

Angelo Bonanno
Istituto per l’Ambiente Marino Costiero
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (IAMC-CNR)


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