Marine Research Findings of the VECTORS Project

This website provides access to the research results of the VECTORS project, which can be used to support marine management decisions, policies and governance as well as future research and investment. VECTORS was a large scale project that brought together more than 200 expert researchers from 16 different countries. It examined the significant changes taking place in European seas, their causes, and the impacts they will have on society.

Risk assessment of the sea urchin, Paracentrotus lividus, fishery in the Sinis MPA (Sardinia)

The present study covers, as a case study, the risk assessment and management of an important fishery resource, the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus, in the MPA of “Penisola del Sinis - Isola di Mal di Ventre” (Sinis MPA), Oristano, Sardinia. This has been identified as a major social and economic issue following the stakeholders’ interviews and the analysis of regional and national legislations conducted in the first part of the VECTORS project, as reported in D6.1. As a tool to determine how risks of over-exploitation of the biological resource can be prevented and if not prevented, how they can be mitigated we used the BowTie analysis. Risk in BowTie methodology is elaborated by the relationship between hazards, top events, threats and consequences. Barriers are used to display what measures an organisation has in place to control the risk12.


This is the first application of the BowTie approach for the risk assessment and management of a biological resource.

The BowTie methodology is used for risk assessment, risk management and risk communication. The method is designed to give a better overview of the situation in which certain risks are present. This is particularly useful to help people understand the relationship between the risks and organisational events. Making accurate predictions of the future in an environment that is as complex as the world itself, is simply impossible. In many cases, as the sustainable fisheries challenge, the stakes of certain consequences are too high to leave unmanaged. Therefore it is wise to think of all possible scenarios and assess how your organisation is prepared to deal with them. This is exactly what the BowTie method has helped us to accomplish for the management of the sea urchin resource in the Sinis MPA. Following the identification of potential impacts, the BowTie software was used to create a diagram of the factors influencing the management of the sea urchin fishery in the Sinis MPA in order to visualise the hazard and associated causes/effects and to propose preventative and mitigation measures.


The BowTie approach, supported by the monitoring activities carried out in the Sinis MPA throughout the years, allowed us a preliminary assessment of risks of over-exploitation of the local sea urchin populations and a quick analysis of what has been done in term of management of the biological resource.

The sea urchin, P. lividus, fishery in the Sinis MPA has been shown to be a complex issue involving several managerial and legislative issues as well as several stakeholders and sectors. The sustainable use of P. lividus fishery is in line with the criteria defined for the establishment of the Sinis MPA and its implementation. It has several social and economic consequences for the local population that uses this resource. Not only fishermen, but all different sectors involved in this activity can benefit from the correct management of sea urchin fishery. The analysis of a such a complex system cannot be tackled with classic methodologies, only. The use of the BowTie approach has permitted us for the first time an innovative analysis for the correct management of a biological resource under pressure for excessive human exploitation. The multidisciplinary approach used for this case study has allowed us to disentangle and categorise the different factors involved in the analysis according to a qualitative and, where possible semi-quantitative, approach. The availability of environmental and biological datasets derived from monitoring activities carried out in the Sinis MPA had a double function: providing science-based recommendations for the sustainable use of the biological resources and validating the management decisions once they are implemented.


Our study will support the Sinis MPA managers and the local and regional policy-makers in the drafting and the adoption of proper management plans that take into account possible repercussions when overlooking some of the factors involved in the sustainable use of sea urchin fishery.

Based on our results, we propose some recommendations which can be useful for the sustainable management of the sea urchin P. lividus:

  • The importance of an appropriate control and surveillance should be highlighted. The low frequency of surveillance and inadequate enforcing laws limit the effectiveness of the MPAs as a main instrument for the conservation of marine resources34. Some possible solutions to this issue include: joining personnel responsible for the control and surveillance during the monitoring activities; due to the large extension of the Sinis MPA installing check point-type places at the main access areas to the MPA;
  • Another important issue is the number and distribution of the access-points to the coast. These are the areas where important resources, such as sea urchins, are most exploited. These areas should be reconsidered in terms of their diversification and utilisation;
  • Based on ad hoc studies, a kind of “rotation” of some areas of zone C (fishing allowed by free diving) could be considered in relation to the specific needs for the conservation of the sea urchins and the coastal marine ecosystem;
  • The importance of no-fishing areas for the conservation of the marine ecosystem is increasingly highlighted worldwide5. However, in the specific case of the Sinis MPA the zone B (no fishing zone) does not differ from zone C.
Relevance for Policy:
  • Common Fisheries Policy
  • Convention on Biological Diversity
  • Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management (forthcoming)
  • Environmental Impact Assessment Directive
  • EU Biodiversity Strategy
  • Integrated European Maritime Policy (IMP)
  • Marine Strategy Framework Directive
  • Water Framework Directive


Lead Author:

Paolo Magni
Institute for Coastal Marine Environment of the National Research Council (IAMC-CNR)
Date of research: March 2014

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The effects of trawling on benthic communities 

The impacts of wind farms on oxygen conditions 

Tidal-influenced activity and migration in shrimp 

Tourist’s valuation of climate change impacts 

Valuing non-market ecosystem benefits of seagrass in the Gulf of Gdansk

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 266445
© Vectors 2015. Coordinated by Plymouth Marine Laboratory.