Coastal Communities and Fisheries

(extracted from Pierce, S. J., Trerup, M., Williams, C., Tilley, A., Marshall, A. D., Raba, N. (2008) Shark fishing in Mozambique: A preliminary assessment of artisanal fisheries. Eyes on the Horizon, Maputo.)

Mozambique has three main types of fisheries: industrial fisheries, semi-industrial, and artisanal. The industrial fisheries comprise 186 vessels, 90 of which are used in the tuna fisheries, and are dominated by State joint-venture companies. The major products include shallow- and deep-water prawn, lobster, fish and some tuna, most of which are exported. The industrial fleets are principally based in the central and northern ports of Beira and Quelimane (Afonso 2006). The tuna fleets follow tuna on their migration through the EEZ of Mozambique, either along the coast or offshore according to temperature zones and local current patterns. A lack of inspection platforms means that the offshore tuna fishery is currently virtually uncontrolled (MRAG 2005).

The semi-industrial fisheries comprise 97 vessels under 20 m in length whose ownership is generally national. These vessels are mostly ice carriers, with limited capacity to store and process fish products. Thus, they generally make short trips and stay close to the coast. The main products are shallow water prawn and demersal fish. The major ports are Beira and Maputo. Target markets include national markets and regional export markets, principally South Africa. The total annual production of the industrial and semi-industrial sectors was estimated at 19 524 tonnes in 2003. Shallow water prawn contributed 39% of the total value of industrial fisheries. Other important products were tuna (38%), deep prawn (7%) and fish (5%). As control on the tuna fisheries is limited, the Government considers the shallow-water prawn, deep-water prawn and fish the most important resources captured in industrial fisheries (Afonso 2006).

The majority of fishing in Mozambique operates at the subsistence and artisanal level (van der Elst et al. 2005). Around 83% of fishers are involved in this sector (van der Elst et al. 2005), landing at least 75% of Mozambican landings (FAO 2006), utilising an estimated 15, 269 artisanal boats (Afonso 2006). These vessels provide employment for around 58, 000 fishers, plus a further 1, 468 fishers without vessels operate from the shoreline. Artisanal fisheries are confined to near coastal areas and use diverse fishing gears including beach seines, hand lines, gillnets, traps, spears, and manual extraction. The main products are fish and prawn, but large capture levels of crab, lobster, bivalves, sea cucumber, sea shells, squid, and sharks are made in certain areas. Informal traders dominate the trade of these products. Processing usually involves smoking or sun drying but a small portion is sold fresh in cities or villages. Prices vary considerably by site, and they may increase two to three times in the urban markets (Afonso 2006).

Most small-scale fisheries within the western Indian Ocean are considered to be fully- or overexploited, especially where they are found close to centres of population. Over the last ten years, the number of underexploited fisheries in the coastal zone has tended to decline and such fisheries are now an exception. This change is due to the high density and low mobility of the artisanal and traditional fleets (FAO 2006). The high dispersion of fishing monitoring centres along the coast, lack of human and financial resources, and lack of a clear definition of responsibilities inside the fishing sector in Mozambique have made the total annual catch for the country difficult to estimate (van der Elst et al. 2005). Official catch values for this subsector were known to be under-estimated, and until national fishery statistics more accurately reflect the landing of artisanal and other small-scale fisheries, the absolute quantities landed will remain uncertain (van der Elst et al. 2005). Probability-based survey techniques for estimating catch and effort of artisanal fisheries have been developed more recently, and were used to estimate an annual production of 67, 070 tonnes in beach seine, gillnet and handline fisheries in 2003 (Afonso 2006).

The extensive coastline and lack of infrastructure makes Mozambique a target for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing (Lopes 2001). The IUU fishing industry is estimated to be around 18% of the size of the legal fishery, costing Mozambique around US$38 million per year (MRAG 2005). IUU fishing usually contributes to unsustainable impacts on both target species and the ecosystem, reducing productivity, biodiversity and ecosystem resilience (MRAG, 2005). This in turn is likely to lead to a reduction in food security for artisanal fishers. The elimination of IUU fishing would potentially increase fish consumption 0.44 kg/yr per capita and boost GNP by 0.67% (MRAG 2005). Generally speaking, the best law enforcement in western Indian Ocean countries is applied to industrial fisheries that are compelled to use port facilities, and are thus more readily checked, while the artisanal fisheries spread along the extensive coastline received little or no enforcement (van der Elst et al. 2005).



Afonso, P. S., Ed. (2006). Country review: Mozambique. Review of the state of world marine capture fisheries management: Indian Ocean. Rome, FAO Fisheries Technical Paper.

FAO (2006). Fisheries development and its contribution to food security and poverty alleviation. South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission, Maputo, Mozambique, 22-25 August 2006. 11 pp.

Lopes, S., Pinto, M.A. (2001). Illegal fishing: the case of Mozambique. Forging unity: coastal communities and the Indian Ocean’s future., Chennai, India, ICSF/IOI.

MRAG (2005). Review of impacts of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing on developing countries (final report). London, U.K., Marine Resources Assessment Group Ltd. 178 pp.

van der Elst, R., Everett, B., Jiddawi, N., Mwatha, G., Afonso, P.S., Boulle, D., 2005. Fish, fishers and fisheries of the Western Indian Ocean: their diversity and status. A preliminary assessment. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series a-Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences 363, 263-284.

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