The nine areas to restock the Mediterranean. Urgent call for action on the eve of the Ministerial Conference on Mediterranean Fisheries

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Malta, 28 March 2017. “There are at least nine  areas in the Mediterranean that need protection as a matter of priority in order to safeguard marine ecosystems and contribute to the recovery of fish stocks, starting with the central Adriatic where Italy and Croazia must soon state their positions regarding the protection of the Jakuba/Pomo Pit.” This is the call of MedReAct on the eve of the Ministerial Conference on Mediterranean Fisheries organised by the European Commission, taking place in Malta 29 and 30 March 2017.  This area, which lies between Italy and Croazia, reaches a maximum depth of 200-260 metres, and has unique geomorphological and oceanographic features. It suffers severe impacts from bottom trawling which over the years has greatly reduced Adriatic fish stocks. This fishing method represents a serious threat to one of the most important nursery and spawning zones for European hake and Norway lobster (for more details see the attached briefing document). A proposal for its protection is currently being examined by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean which will express its position in the coming months.

The Malta conference, in which sixteen ministers from Mediterranean countries will participate, will conclude with the signing of the Malta MedFish4Ever declaration, committing Mediterranean countries to protect vulnerable species and sensitive habitats and to establish fisheries restricted zones and marine protected areas. By 2020 the coastal states must achieve protection of 10% of the Mediterranean Sea, in line with the sustainable development goals of the United Nations and the Convention on Biological Diversity. “Protection of the Jakuba Pomo Pit represents an important testing ground on which to verify the level of political will to restore vulnerable marine areas and fish stocks and to save the future of Adriatic fisheries,” declared MedReAct spokesperson Domitilla Senni. “We call on Italy and Croazia to make a public commitment at the Malta Ministerial Conference to protect this area from bottom trawling.”

In addition to the Pomo Pit, MedReAct draws attention to eight other priority areas requiring protection measures:

  1. Northern Sicilian Seamounts
  2. Gulf of Lion Slope
  3. Alicante Canyon
  4. Balearic Seamounts
  5. Alboran Sea Seamounts
  6. Western Sardinia Canyons
  7. Southern Ligurian Seamounts
  8. Aegean Sea – the Thracian Sea

Each of these areas is described below.

Priority Areas in the Mediterranean Sea

  1. Northern Sicilian Seamounts. Located off the northwest coast of Sicily, the area includes two seamounts each of about 1000 meters, called Aceste and Drepano, as well as the Ustica ridge and escarpment. Aceste, characterized by the presence of black corals (Antipatharia) and scleractinians (Dendrophyllia cornigera), is an area of high importance for elasmobranchs, especially sharks, and in particular the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) which is relatively numerous in this area, and longnose spurdog (Squalus blainvillei) which is abundant. The southernmost area is located at the entrance to the Strait of Sicily, an essential migratory zone in the Mediterranean, considered a vulnerable area for small pelagic species.
  1. Adriatic Sea Jabuka/Pomo Pit. The area, situated in the central Adriatic at a maximum depth of 200-260m, presents unique geomorphological and oceanographic features. In addition to playing an important role in the overall oceanographic dynamics of the entire Adriatic Sea, it is considered an Essential Fish Habitat, the only one in the central Adriatic, mostly for the reproduction and growth of important Adriatic demersal species, especially European hake (Merluccius merluccius). This area hosts the largest population of Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) and is important especially for juveniles at depths below 200m. It is also a nursery zone for black-bellied angler (Lophius budegassa) and horned octopus (Eledone cirrhosa). Based on an available scientific data it is a high density area for giant devil ray (Mobula mobular) which is an endemic species. The Pit could function as a favorable environment for some key life history stages of the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasu)s, which is critically endangered. Regarding benthic species, several types of corals can be found (Scleractinia, Actiniaria). Although it covers less than 10 percent of the total surface of the Adriatic Sea, this area is one of the most important fishing grounds in the Adriatic for bottom trawling, which puts the fish resources of the entire Adriatic under pressure. Fish populations are threatened by overfishing and high fishing pressure on juveniles. Currently, the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean is considering a proposal to close the Jakuba/Pomo Pit to bottom trawling.
  1. Alicante Canyon. This is one of the largest submarine canyons in Spain’s eastern waters. Located in one of the areas with the widest continental shelf, it is part of one of the main rose shrimp (Parapenaeus longirostris) fishing areas, and thus is strongly impacted by shrimp bottom trawling. This area is an essential habitat and nursery area for the hake (Merluccius merluccius), together with the presence of other associated species (assemblages) in the canyon. Several cetacean species and the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) are also present in the zone. The deepest part of the canyon, located on the eastern side, is a spawning ground for bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus). It is considered a sensitive habitat for several elasmobranchs species (Etmopterus spinax, Galeus melastomus and Scyliorhinus canicula).
  1. Balearic Seamounts. The area includes four different seamounts: Emile Baudot, Ses Olives, Ausías March and Bell Guyot. Essential habitats (bluefin tuna spawning ground) and sensitive habitats (bamboo coral gardens – Isidella elongata), maërl beds, coralligenous, gorgonian gardens (Muriceides lepida, Swiftia palida, Eunicella verrucosa, Villogorgia brevicoides, Viminella flagelum, Callogorgia verticilata) and black corals (Leiopathes glaberrima, Antipathes dichotoma) have been found. These organisms are particularly threatened by bottom trawling and long-line fishing. The presence of these species is often associated with the presence of commercial species (monkfish, hake, Norway lobster, lobster, octopus, red shrimp) which call for an adequate management. The area is also visited by pelagic species such as swordfish (Xiphias gladius), different dolphin species (Tursiops truncatus, Delphinus delphis), sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) and loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems can also be found in the area.
  1. The Alboran Sea Seamounts. These seamounts, located between the European and African continents in the Alboran Sea, are scattered throughout the area along with the remains of an old volcano rising 15m above sea level, making part of a mountain ridge (Alboran Island). Along the canyons of the Alboran Sea are deep water corals. Hake is one of the most important target species for the trawl fisheries in this area; it is fished at excessively high levels in all trawling areas from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Cape of Gata, including the deep bottom fishing grounds surrounding Alboran Island. Juvenile hakes are caught in more shallow waters of about 50-300m depth, whereas adults are fished at depths of around 800 m, together with the Nephrops norvegicus fishery.
  1. Western Sardinia Canyons. The Catalano and Oristano submarine canyons are located off the east coast of Sardinia and together constitute the most important part of the canyon system surrounding the island. Submarine canyons usually are areas of interest for fisheries, in that they are highly productive zones due to their special hydrodynamics. In this case, fisheries for large pelagic species are present. In these zones one finds various cetacean species, such as Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus), sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), and striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba), as well as large filter feeders such as basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) and giant devil ray (Mobula mobular), which is relatively abundant in these areas. Moreover, at the edge of the slope there are lobster (Palinurus elephas) nurseries.
  1. Southern Ligurian Seamounts. This area includes a series of seamounts (Cialdi, Giglio and Jadul) north of the Tyrrhenian Sea and on the edge of the Pelagos Sanctuary. It is a high primary production area which supports many different shark and ray species (Cetorhinus maximus, Carcharhinus brachyurus, Scyliorhinus canicula, Galeus melastomus, Etmopterus spinax, Raja clavata, Raja asterias). For most of these species, this area serves as a nursery. The six-gilled shark (Hexanchus griseus) and thresher shark (Alopias spp) are also found in this area. In the Cialdi seamount the first submerged micritic limestones were discovered with Acesta excavata associated with corals and polychaetes, including Vermiliopsis monodiscus and Protula sp.
  1. Aegean Sea – The Thracian Sea. This is a disjunct area which covers two areas known as the Strymonian Gulf and the Samotraki Plateau. The Samotraki Plateau and the Strymonian Gulf are two demersal areas located in the north of the Aegean Sea, at a depth of around 180m, and are considered to be spawning grounds for hake. The area isan important fishing ground for bottom trawlers. These activities increase the mortality rates of juveniles of all species in the 180m isobath area of the Thracian Sea. As far as hake is concerned, the nursery and breeding grounds lie mainly in international waters in the Aegean and Thracian Seas.

Sources:

Scientific Information to Describe Areas Meeting Scientific Criteria for Mediterranean EBSAs, Oceana (2014). Fisheries conservation and vulnerable ecosystems in the Mediterranean open seas, including the deep seas, de Juan, S. and Lleonart, J. eds. UNEP-MAP-RAC/SPA (2010).

 

Promoting fish recovery in the Karaburun – Sazan Marine Protected Area (MPA)

Between January and June 2016 the Albanian Association for Protection of Aquatic Wildlife of Albania (APAWA) and MedReAct carried out the Project “Promoting fish recovery in the Karaburun – Sazan MPA” with financial support from the Waitt Foundation, .

The Project’s overall objective was to raise public and decision-makers’ awareness on the need to enforce marine conservation measures in Albania, provide for the recovery of depleted fish stocks and promote sustainable fisheries, in particular by:

  • exposing the state of fish communities in the Karaburun-Sazan MPA, assessed by the Waitt marine expedition in Albania in 2015;
  • disseminating the Waitt expedition findings to decision-makers, local fishing communities, scientists, NGOs, EU institutions in Albania and the local media;
  • engaging with stakeholders and authorities to ensure fisheries enforcement in the MPA; and
  • sharing the results from an Italian no-take area to provide Albanian fishermen and fisheries managers with an example of best fishing practice.

The Project engaged with the Vlora fishermen community and other relevant institutions such as the General Fisheries Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture, the national and local branch of the Agency of Protected Areas, the Vlora Fisheries Inspectorate, the Ministry of Environment, the University of Vlora, the Agricultural University of Tirana, environmental NGOs and experts on fisheries and marine environment.

Download the final report: Promoting fish recovery in the Karaburun – Sazan Marine Protected Area (MPA).

THE FAILURE TO PROTECT KEY NURSERY GROUNDS IN THE ADRIATIC. THE CASE OF THE JABUKA/POMO PIT

The Central Adriatic Jabuka/Pomo Pit is an area in which the combination of regional hydrography, low benthic biomass, and sedimentological factors provides the conditions to support a key nursery ground for commercial species subject to persistent overfishing such as hake, deep water rose shrimp and Norway lobster by the Italian and Croatian fishing fleets.

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The Jabuka/Pomo Pit

Scientific advice to protect the Jabuka/Pomo Pit long went unheard. It was only in 1998 that Italy established a small no-take area, closed to all commercial and recreational fisheries. This area – defined as a Zone of Biological Protection (Zona di Tutela Biologica – ZTB) – was reopened to fisheries in 2003 and closed again in 2009. In 2011, the prohibition on trawling in the ZTB was reconfirmed in the Italian Management Plan for Demersal Fisheries in the Adriatic.

Despite these repeated rulings, fisheries continued undisturbed. The following maps indicate constant fishing activities in the ZTB (marked in black) by the Italian fishing fleet in the years 2012-2014.

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VMS from the Italian fleet in the Adriatic (R. Elahi, Stanford University)[1]

But beyond the ZTB, scientists from the FAO AdriaMed Project had long called for wider protection of the Jabuka/Pomo Pit.

In 2010 AdriaMed summarised over 50 years of investigations in the Jabuka/Pomo Pit, noting that:

  1. The exploitation pattern of hake and Norway lobster is far from optimal, meaning that with the same fishing effort, the quantity landed could be increased or alternatively the same landings could be obtained with less fishing effort. This exploitation pattern is the result of the unselectivity of the bottom trawl nets catching large amounts of juveniles and undersized hake, even when fully utilising the larger mesh size introduced by Council Regulation 1967/2006.
  2. The negative trends in demersal stock biomass over the past 20 years show that the resource is exploited at unsustainable levels.

AdriaMed examined long-term, spatial management options based on the fact that hake is a long-lived species therefore short-term fishing closures cannot be expected to produce substantial effects. Noway lobster is also a relatively long-lived species which, during the first year of its life, remains hidden in the burrows and cannot be taken by trawlers, therefore short temporal closures will be ineffective.

The scientists recommended an experimental three-year closure, to be reviewed on the basis of the results from annual monitoring. Several area sizes were presented as possible options to protected a larger or smaller portion of the nursery grounds.

It wasn’t until 2015 that the Italian and Croatian administrations jointly closed – initially for one year – a wider area of the Jabuka/Pomo Pit to towed gear, which included a part of the Italian ZTB.

Although this new no-trawl zone (marked in grey in the VMS maps above) only partly covered all the key nurseries, when complemented with a fully enforced ZTB, it would have offered an initial significant decree of protection if, as originally planned, the temporal closure was extended or made permanent.

However, just one year later the Italian government, under pressure from the trawling industry, retreated from its original plans and unilaterally reopened the area to trawlers, leaving only a very small portion closed to fisheries. In addition the ZTB was abolished and  although new measures were introduced to reduce fishing effort, the Pomo/Jabuka lost the level of protection required for the most important nursery grounds of the Adriatic and for the recovery of its depleted fish stocks.

MedReAct and the Adriactic Recovery Project are calling on Italy to reconsider its decision, resume the collaboration with Croatia on the Pomo/Jabuka Pit and ensure the permanent and wider protection of the area key nurseries and spawning grounds.

[1] Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) is a general term to describe systems that are used in commercial fishing to allow environmental and fisheries regulatory organizations to track and monitor the activities of fishing vessels.

NASCE L’ADRIATIC RECOVERY PROJECT

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NASCE L’ADRIATIC RECOVERY PROJECT 

L’ Adriatic Recovery Project nasce a fine 2016 per promuovere il recupero degli ecosistemi  e degli stock ittici  del mare Adriatico. Il Progetto è coordinato da MedReAct in collaborazione con la Stanford University, il Politecnico delle Marche, Legambiente e Marevivo.

Insieme al mar Ionio, l’Adriatico ospita il 49% delle specie marine del Mediterraneo ed è considerato una delle zone più produttive per la pesca di tutto il bacino. Decenni di  sfruttamento  eccessivo hanno  provocato il forte declino degli stock ittici e la conseguente crisi che attanaglia il settore della pesca. La pesca a strascico, molto diffusa in questo mare, ha inoltre determinato una profonda modifica dei suoi equilibri, contribuendo al generale impoverimento della biodiversità marina.

Il Progetto ha come obiettivo l’istituzione di Fishery Restricted Areas (FRA) – ovvero di  zone in cui la pesca viene chiusa o fortemente ridotta – nelle acque internazionali dell’Adriatico che ospitano aree di riproduzione e crescita (nursery) di importanti specie ittiche o ecosistemi vulnerabili. Le FRA costituirebbero così delle “ “riserve” per il recupero di specie ittiche importanti come il merluzzo, oggi sull’orlo del collasso, e una sorta di “polmone” per il ripristino della biodiversità.

Il Progetto intende:

  • raccogliere, analizzare e divulgare dati che attestino la presenza di ecosistemi vulnerabili marini, di nursery e aree di riproduzione nelle acque internazionali dell’ Adriatico;
  • incoraggiare il coinvolgimento e la partecipazione delle realtà territoriali;
  • promuovere iniziative di sensibilizzazione e mobilitazione per la tutela dell’Adriatico.

Nei prossimi tre anni le flotte di pesca dell’Unione europea attive nel Mediterraneo, dovranno raggiungere gli obiettivi di sostenibilità della nuova Politica Comune della Pesca. E’ una sfida importante che richiederà l’impegno di istituzioni, del settore della pesca e delle organizzazioni della società civile anche in Adriatico.

Il nostro Progetto intende offrire un contributo a questa difficile sfida, il cui esito determinerà non solo il futuro del nostro mare e della sua biodiversità ma anche quello delle tante piccole comunità di pescatori responsabili che ancora resistono intorno al Mediterraneo.

Seguici su facebook: @adriaticrecovery

Is Mediterranean hake on the verge of collapse?

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The Mediterranean is probably one of the most overfished sea of the Planet, well beyond EU overfishing rates in the Atlantic or in the Baltic Sea. Between 1994 and 2014, Mediterranean catches declined from 1.020.000 to 800.000 tons, an impressive 20% reduction in only 20 years.

All over the Mediterranean, the status of fish stocks is alarming:

  • On average, 85% of assessed stocks are overexploited [1] (96% of EU stocks and 91% for stocks shared with non EU countries [2]).
  • The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) and the EU Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) regularly assess the status of fish stocks in the Med. Out of 440 assessments published between 2007 and 2015, as much as 400 revealed fishing exploitation rates well beyond sustainable levels, 128 of which with rates five times higher than biologically sustainable limits.

Overfishing is certainly not the only crisis facing the Mediterranean area, however what is at stake should not be overlooked: Mediterranean fisheries represent 250.000 direct jobs and 500.000 indirect jobs and they constitute an essential income for a region striving through devastating economic and political crisis.

Hake: on the verge of collapse after decades of rampant overfishing

Hake is a key commercial species in Mediterranean fisheries and as such it attracts scientists attention, resulting in 74 stock assessments between 2007 and 2015. All these assessments converge on the same result: with the exception of Morocco, hake is overfished all around the Med in proportions that often goes beyond imagination.

Area                             

Hake overfishing rate (2013-2015)

Central-Northern Adriatic, Greece, Turkey, Tunisia

1-4

Balearic Islands, South-East of Italy, Southern Adriatic, South of Italy

4-8

Northern Spain, Eastern and Northern Corsica, Sardinia

8-12

Gulf of Lion

16

Hake economic value represents 8% of the total Mediterranean landings. Its average first sale price (what is paid to the fisherman) is about 7 €/kg [3]. This accounts for the systematic overfishing which, year after year and for decades, is leading the stocks on the verge of collapse.

Its spatial distribution covers semi coastal areas of the Northern Mediterranean basin, from Gibraltar to the Adriatic and Turkey. It is therefore mostly targeted by EU trawlers from Italy, France, Spain, Greece and Croatia. These countries should be held responsible for the poor state of hake and made accountable for its recovery. For decades, EU fishing power increased, creating rampant overcapacity fuelled by massive amounts of EU and national subsidies.

The short and long term challenges facing Mediterranean hake stocks

Very recently, the European Commission turned its attention to the dramatic state of Mediterranean fish stocks and initiated action for the adoption of several multiannual management plans (MAPs). However, a MAP takes about two years to negotiate by the EU and the process –for stocks targeted by the EU fleets in the region– could last until 2023-2025. Considering the poor state of hake it may be too late to prevent its collapse.

A dire example is hake fisheries in the Gulf of Lion by French and Spanish fleets, whose exploitation rate increased by 400% between 2007 and 2012 and it has not improved since. In 2016 the Commission urged France and Spain to propose immediate measures to cut fishing effort, but negotiations between these two countries failed. Now the burden rest with the European Commission which could implement emergency measures provided for by Article 12 of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, which enables to close a fishery for two consecutive periods of six months each, to prevent a stock from collapsing (a concrete possibility in the Gulf of Lion) [4]. Even though a one-year closure alone will not enable the stock to recover, it would give hake a break and send a strong political signal to Member states that it’s time to act.

In the Mediterranean, overfishing is compounded by the absence of political will to implement effective management measures. While decision-makers rely on short-term laisser-faire attitudes, year after year, the social, economic and environmental impacts of the fisheries crisis becomes heavier and heavier.

In March 2017, the European Commission will convene a Ministerial Conference in Malta to discuss and agree an action plan for Mediterranean fish stocks. However, if the Commission is serious about addressing this crisis, it needs to show leadership by confronting – as a matter of priority – the dire situation of European hake in the Gulf of Lion through the introduction of immediate emergency measures.

[1] FAO/GFCM. The state of Mediterranean and Black sea Fisheries (SoMFi 2016)

[2] Communication of the European Commission on fishing opportunities for 2016.

[3] 2016 Annual Economic Report on the EU fishing fleet (STECF 16/11).

[4] Emergency measures were applied in the past for anchovy in the Bay of Biscay and more recently, in 2014, for sea bass in the Channel.

A NATALE NON C’E’ SCAMPO

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In pochi anni la pesca adriatica è crollata del 21%. Nasce l’ Adriatic Recovery Project, un’alleanza tra attivisti e scienziati per salvare l’Adriatico.

Siamo agli sgoccioli. Per il Mediterraneo, e in particolare per Adriatico, se non corriamo ai ripari non ci sarà scampo. In senso letterale e in senso figurato. L’accorato appello arriva dall’ Adriatic Recovery Project, un’alleanza di organizzazioni non-governative e istituzioni scientifiche, coordinata da MedReAct, in collaborazione con l’Università di Stanford, il Politecnico delle Marche, Legambiente e Marevivo.

A dirci che non possiamo più aspettare sono gli impressionanti dati sulla pesca forniti dalla Commissione europea: il 96% degli stock ittici dell’UE in Mediterraneo sono sovrasfruttati, provocando in Adriatico un crollo del 21% delle catture della pesca italiana. Per alcune specie molto richieste dai consumatori la situazione è ben più drammatica, con cali del 45% per il nasello (tra il 2006 e il 2014) e del 54% per lo scampo (2009-2014) sia per la pesca croata che italiana.

Dati ancora più preoccupanti se si pensa che solo l’Adriatico sostiene il 50% della pesca italiana, la più importante nel Mediterraneo, che proprio in questo bacino concentra il 47% della nostra flotta industriale, soprattutto quella a strascico.

Questa intensa attività ha causato lo sfruttamento eccessivo di tutti gli stock ittici dell’Adriatico, oggi in forte declino, alterandone gli ecosistemi e producendo di conseguenza una profonda crisi nel comparto della pesca. I dati più allarmanti riguardano il merluzzo (o nasello) oggi pescato, secondo l’Unione europea, oltre cinque volte la soglia di sostenibilità, e tra le specie più richieste dai consumatori. Secondo un recente sondaggio condotto da Greenpeace, il merluzzo, dopo il tonno, è infatti il pesce preferito dagli italiani, acquistato dal 71% dei consumatori. La pesca a strascico insiste anche su aree particolarmente vulnerabili come la Fossa di Pomo, una depressione in centro Adriatico dove si trova la più importante zona di riproduzione (nursery) di scampi e nasello di tutto l’Adriatico.

“L’elevato sfruttamento dell’Adriatico – dice Domitilla Senni, portavoce  di MedReAct- ha reso questo mare uno dei più impattati al mondo. Consentire la pesca a strascico in una delle sue zone più vulnerabili, come la Fossa di Pomo, dimostra il grado di miopia del governo italiano, che sta condannando l’Adriatico ad una rapida desertificazione”.

In linea con le raccomandazioni scientifiche di organismi internazionali come la Commissione Generale per la Pesca del Mediterraneo, e con l’impegno assunto dall’UE durante la Convenzione sulla Diversità Biologica per garantire la conservazione del 10 per cento delle sue zone costiere e marine entro il 2020,le aree sottoposte a restrizione delle attività di pesca sono essenziali per la protezione di habitat – e per le specie ittiche che le popolano – dal sovrasfruttamento dovuto a un’eccessiva attività di pesca.

 L’Adriatic Recovery Project  è promosso da un’ alleanza di organizzazioni della società civile e da enti di ricerca per tutelare gli ecosistemi marini vulnerabili e gli habitats essenziali per le specie ittiche dell’Adriatic. Il Progetto è finanziato da Oceans5, sostenuto dal Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment e coordinato da MedReAct –  associazione non governativa impegnata nel recupero degli ecosistemi marini del Mediterraneo – in collaborazione con Legambiente, Marevivo, l’Università di Stanford e il Politecnico delle Marche.

“Non c’è scampo”, è anche una storia illustrata: goo.gl/HUhC5h

Mediterranean Recovery Action

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