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THE ASSESSMENT OF FISHING CAPACITY IN MAURITANIA - Chérif Ould Touileb[84]


Abstract: A combined input and output based approach is used to estimate the level of excess capacity in the Mauritanian fisheries. The output of a 'standard' fishing vessel is estimated assuming it is fully utilized. Given this, the number of standard vessels required to take the target catch is estimated. The level of excess capacity is assessed with regard to the difference between the current fleet and the required number of standard vessels. An example is given relating to the cephalopod fishery.

1. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The fisheries sector plays a leading role in the Mauritanian economy, providing foreign currency, employment and revenue. Fish is also a low cost and sustainable source of animal protein to a growing number of consumers. As such, it plays an important role in food security.

Since the adoption of the New Fisheries Policy (1979), which aimed at incorporating the fisheries sector into the national economy, the fishing industry has undergone a rapid development. The national fleet developed in a precipitated manner in the 1980s, especially in export-based demersal fisheries. In 1999, the fleet was composed of 499 industrial vessels. Of these, 376 units were equipped with on-board freezing capacities, while the remainder (123 trawlers) used ice. In addition to this fleet, the small-scale artisanal fleet also expanded rapidly over the last decade. There were 2 430 artisanal and small-scale boats operating in 1999.

Successive fisheries policy statements adopted by Mauritania stressed the importance of developing high value-added activities, such as on shore processing of fishery products and the development of artisanal fisheries. Artisanal fisheries are labour-intensive and require relatively low levels of technology and investment. Artisanal vessels are as a result quite adequate for the exploitation of coastal resources, which represent in terms of value the most important fishery resources of Mauritania.

The present policy framework, adopted as a "National Fisheries Management and Development Strategy", comes at a key moment in the history of the exploitation of fishery resources - characterized by a gradual decline in fisheries resources and persistent increase in fishing effort, which will, inevitably, lead to a critical situation in terms of resource unsustainability and of reduced financial viability for the industry. The "National Fisheries Management and Development Strategy" recognizes the rapid changes that the fishery sector is currently experiencing at the national and international levels, and emphasizes the necessity to accompany these changes with strengthened management measures.

States are increasingly convinced of the necessity to ensure a sustainable management of the natural resources that fall under their jurisdiction, and of the resources that they share with neighbouring countries. Yet, as a motor in the international scene, the United Nations and its specialized agencies remain the front-runners in the protection of the Oceans and of their living resources, two themes which they give top priority to. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Convention on Biodiversity, the Convention on the Protection of Endangered Species and the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries show the commitment of the international community to efficiently manage the marine environment and to exploit marine resources in a sustainable manner, while reducing poverty and supplying fish for food to a world's population whose growing birth rate continues to preoccupy both experts and policy-makers.

In a world of wealth and poverty, mankind has an essential role to play and the effective management of plant and animal production systems is a guarantee to a sustainable exploitation of living resources in harmony with the environment. For resources such as fisheries, irresponsible behaviour can lead to highly unsustainable outcome and the life of present and future generations largely depends on our capacity to regulate our production and consumption patterns.

Among the steps required to manage fisheries, it is essential to control the amount of fishing capacity at national and international levels. In order to regulate fishing capacity, it is also important to define and implement plans for fisheries management and sustainable development with a view to preventing any unnecessary increase in capacity levels and the depletion of fisheries resources. The factors to be considered in Mauritania are twofold.

First are the national fisheries resources that the State manages and for which it is responsible. Access to these resources is the object of much competition. On the one hand, the local industry is affected by diminishing yields and feels threatened by foreign fleets that are sometimes more technologically advanced. On the other hand, foreign fleets operating under access agreements are asking for a greater part of available quotas, if only because of the scarcity of resources in other traditional fishing grounds. Foreign fleets are also struggling against reduced yields (at home and in Mauritania) and access agreements negotiated with Mauritania allows many of the vessels concerned to stay in operation. Access fees and related payments are a very important source of revenue for the country. These represent a significant part of the national budget and a major source of foreign exchange.

Second are the shared resources and international stocks for which management falls under the jurisdiction of several States or international organizations. It is particularly difficult to manage these stocks for the following reasons:

2. FISHERIES RESOURCES IN THE MAURITANIAN EEZ

Mauritania has abundant fisheries resources, and its inshore waters are the cradle of an intense biological activity. These fisheries resources are exploited with increasing intensity, especially as regard high value species. Recent estimates report a fisheries potential of about 1 1 500 000 tonnes per annum, most of which composed of pelagic species. High value species consist in particular of cephalopods, crustaceans and various species of demersal fishes. Theses species represent about 20 percent of total catch. The overall status of exploitation is indicated below for the three main fisheries components.

3. DESCRIPTION OF SYSTEMS OF EXPLOITATION

A diversity of vessels operates on the Mauritanian EEZ. The main types of vessels are: pelagic freezer trawlers; bottom freezer trawlers; bottom ice trawlers; lobster boats; shrimp trawlers; small decked vessels; and small open boats. The national freezer fleet is 18 years old on average. Ice trawlers have been introduced quite recently. Following the depletion of sparids stocks, the exploitation of demersal fisheries has since focused on cephalopods and, in particular, on octopus.

The authorized global fishing capacity amounted to 499 vessels in 1999. In addition to this fleet, there are 2450 artisanal and small boats (the capacity of a small boat is estimated at 1 GRT). The composition of vessels and the global fishing capacity in Mauritania is shown in Table 1.

Table 1: GRT units, fishing days and boas number by fishery


GRT units

Fishing days

Number of boats

Average number of days at sea per year

Freezer trawlers

501 031

32 854

376

87

Ice trawlers

26 219

13 161

123

107

Small boats and small decked vessels

2 450

627 400

2 450

252

Total

529 700

663 415

2 949

446

4. MEASUREMENT OF FISHING CAPACITY

4.1 Assessment

The national centre for marine research and fisheries (Centre National de Recherche Océanographique et des Pêches - CNROP) has organized a series of assessments of fisheries resources, leading to an estimation of corresponding allowable fishing effort (capacity). Following the 1988 assessments, the 1993 working group reviewed the status of fisheries resources and provided for a description of the fleets. The first estimates of allowable fishing effort by main fishery were derived on this basis. The last working group met in December 1998.

Even though these findings provide for a clear overview of the measurement of fishing capacity, it is important to further consider the multispecific nature of main fisheries and the heterogeneity of the fleet.

Applying measures of fishing capacity to the management of specific multispecies fisheries is only relevant if the characteristics of fisheries and fleets interactions are duly considered. This implies an explicit recognition that fishing effort entails catches of species other than the one(s) targeted in a main fishery, including species that are targeted or harvested in significant amounts in other main fisheries.

If the resource is composed of several fished species, target fishing effort cannot be estimated based on summing up the potential output of each species. Fishing effort is considered to be equally applied across all the different species caught in a main fishery. Target fishing effort is further defined on the basis of the maximum potential output of one single species identified as reference amongst all. The choice of a reference species depends on its state of exploitation, its economic importance and other specific factors. Reference species used for this purpose are the following: octopus, sparids, hakes, shrimp, horse mackerel, clams, crabs, and pink lobsters (see Table 2b, second column).

On this basis, capacity can be measured and assessed for each main fisheries (e.g. octopus as reference species for the main fishery of cephalopods, etc). Capacity is measured on the basis of inputs: the number of vessel units operating in the fishery, gross registered tonnage and days at sea.

4.2 Approach to the measurement of fishing capacity

The approach may be summarized as follows:

The following application is used for estimating fishing capacity in relation to the state of the cephalopods fisheries.

Table 2(a). Characteristics of vessel's units


GRT

Engine Power

Length

Cephalopod Freezer trawlers

295

851

37

Ice trawlers

91

310

20

RTMS*

3019

3880

102

Hake trawlers

320



Shrimp trawlers

225



* RTMS, RTMA and BMRT refer to Russian types of vessels

Table 2(b). Recapitulation of all findings

Fisheries


Allocated Effort


Reference Species

Allocated Potential by Fishery

Standard unit (vessel)

Average number of fishing days a year

Standard CPUE per fishing days in tonnes

Unit's number of fishing days/year

number of vessel's units/year

GRT/year

Cephalopod Trawlers

Octopuses

32 416

Freezer trawler

289

1.42

22 827

79

23 305

National Ice Trawlers

Sparids

8 846

Ice trawler

192

0.52

17 012

88

8 008

Hake Trawlers

Hakes

11 113

Hake trawler

135

2.46

4 517

33

10 560

Shrimp Trawlers

Shrimp

750

Shrimp trawler

282

0.09

8 333

30

6 750

Small Pelagic Trawlers

T. trecas

220 000

RTMS*

220

18.68

11 777

53

160 000

Unexploited Resource

Clams

301 000

Drag nets






Unexploited Resource

Crabs

94

Pots/Traps






Unexploited Resource

Pink lobsters

800

Pots/Traps






Allocation of effort amongst fishing vessels

A total target level of exploitation (TAC) is first defined for the reference species (octopus) on the basis of biological research. This TAC has been established at the time of reference (1994) at 40 000 tonnes. The catch of the national fleet (including small scale fishing units) targeting cephalopods and the incidental catches of fleets operating in other fisheries are deduced from the TAC. This leaves an available target catch of about 32 500 tonnes.

This target catch is then expressed in terms of input capacity using actual catch rates and standards fishing effort. For the industrial bottom fishery, the common unit adopted is the number of fishing days for a freezer trawler of 295 GT, of approximately 850 engine power and with a length of approximately 37 m. All Mauritanian and Chinese freezer trawlers are part of this category. Chinese ice trawlers targeting cephalopods have been standardized in relation to the fishing effort of a standard unit. The conversion factor of these Chinese-type ice trawlers in freezer trawlers is 0.67. The Mauritanian ice trawlers target demersals.

For the time of reference, the fleet required to catch the quota, assuming the same fleet profile and full use (289 days per year), is estimated to 79 standard vessels (and corresponding level of standard fishing days).

This target number of vessels is compared to the actual standard fleet targeting cephalopods (as their main target). For the year of reference, the actual standard fleet involved 96 vessels (and corresponding level of actual standard fishing days).

The difference between the authorized and the allowable effort shows either overcapacity or undercapacity. In the above example, fishing capacity on cephalopods, shows an overcapacity of 17 units, i.e. 19 percent.

Similar calculation made for 1998 suggest that a 25 percent cut in fishing effort (or capacity) is required on octopuses, as a reference species. A synthesis of the diagnostics and recommendations proposed for the management of fishing capacity of all the fisheries exploited in Mauritania is given in Annex 1.

4.3 Necessary Data

5. CONCLUSION

The growing overexploitation of fisheries resources is a consequence of the behaviour of fishing fleets ('race for fish', etc.) and of a lack of appropriate management measures. This situation generally leads to the development of overcapacity and to overfishing.

Developing States, like Mauritania, are progressively addressing the problem of overcapacity but cannot necessarily address all related issues on their own. Inter alia, these countries face serious constraints in elaborating and implementing strategies for controlling fishing capacity and regulating fishing effort, including the difficulty of enforcing legislation and measures aimed at the protection of fisheries resources within their exclusive economic zones.

Overcapacity is often the result of as a result of an excessive build-up of national fishing fleet. In this case, developing States may not have the all the means, financial or otherwise, that are required to address this issue. It may also be the result of an excessive build-up of both national and international fishing fleets. Indeed, foreign fleets authorized to operate within the framework of arrangements or agreements are often seen as a factor contributing to overcapacity. But these agreements are for some countries quite an indispensable source of funds for the national budget and are often negotiated in the broader context of bilateral cooperation.

Mauritania as well as the other countries of the West African Region with high or excessive levels of fishing capacity need technical and financial aid to achieve an appropriate regulation of fishing capacity, protect key stocks from overfishing and develop viable fisheries for resources that remain largely underexploited or unexploited, such as small pelagics and clams.

The management of fishing capacity should be envisaged within a global strategy which takes the following aspects into account: the sustainable exploitation of major resources, guaranteeing economic performances; the protection and enhancement of the resource base; and due consideration of the various components of fisheries resources, such as transboundary stocks, underutilized stocks and discarded species.

It is within this framework that Mauritania has taken, inter alia, the following measures:

These measures have been elaborated within the framework of a national management fisheries plan which aim is to define the allowable potential output (by stocks or areas and the standard effort to authorize with a view to ensuring an efficient and rational use of the EEZ resources.

Annex 1. Findings of the 1998 working group

Resources

Current Catches

Natural Variability

Diagnostics

Catch Potential (1) in tonnes

Excess Fishing (2)

Recommendations

Data Quality

Assessment Quality

Observations

Cephalopods










Octopus

20 000

?

Over-utilized

~ 35 000

(21 000 to 40 000 t)

Þ Þ 25%

Need to reduce fishing effort and not to increase fishing pressure on juvenile stocks

Good

Rather satisfying, Reliable diagnostics on over utilization but Unreliable Potential estimate

Need to undertake studies on age structure and relation to environment

Cuttlefish

~ 5 000


Probably fully to over exploited

~ 10 000**

Not known

Need to apply the precautionary approach and encourage the use of selective gears


Very weak

Need to undertake biological studies

Squid

~ 2 000

Average

Not known

~ 6 000**

Not known



Very weak


Demersals










Off shore species

Not known

Average

Probably under to fully exploited

10 to 15 000**

Probably low or none

Prevent any fishing effort increase

Complete data

Very weak

Only off shore data can be used

Coastal species

Not known

Average

Probably under to fully exploited

Not known

Probably

Freeze effort

Very incomplete data

Very weak

Id

Hakes

11 000

Average

Probably under exploited, increase in biomass rapid increase in fishing effort

> 13 000 (national area)

None

Control effort until a more precise assessment is undertaken

Incomplete

Bad and does not concern national area

Lack of biological information and data

Mullets

2-4000 t



Not known

Not known

Freeze effort

Very weak

No assessment can be undertaken

Under review at the CNROP

Crustaceans










Deep sea shrimp

1 600

High

Probably fully exploited

2 500

Weak

Freeze effort

Bad

Very weak, empirical method

Shrimp potential estimated on the basis of shrimp catch over the last ten years

Coastal shrimp

1 000

High

Probably fully exploited

1 500

Weak

Freeze effort

Bad

Very weak, empirical method


Crabs

300

High

Probably fully exploited

400*

None

Freeze effort

Bad

Weak


Pink lobster*

200

High


800*

Not known



Insufficient


Green Lobster* (2 stocks)

100

High

Northern stock probably in the process of replenishment

220*

Weak

Wait before any effort increase

Very Bad

incomplete 1988 assessment, no 1998 assessment

Need to estimate Southern stocks

Clams










V. rasalina

0

High

Not utilised

< 300 000

None


Weak

1993 assessment


V. verrucasa

0

High

Not utilised any more

500 - 1000*

Id.


Weak

1993 assessment


Pelagics










Sardinellas

400 000

Extremely high

Decreasing biomass (acoustic data)

750 000*



Improve biological data and Catch data

Weak

Inshore component not evaluated

Horse Mackerel

160 000

Extremely high

Decreasing biomass (acoustic data)

400 to 600 000 t


A maintained effort or a 20% effort increase would be sustainable

Id

Weak

Inshore component not evaluated

Mackerel

53 000






Insufficient



Hairtail

81 000






Insufficient



Tuna










Yellow fin

1 500

Low

Fully Exploited

Atlantic stocks

None - Low

Freeze effort and fix minimal size

Good

Satisfying

ICCAT assessment, Atlantic Management

Skipjack

20 000 (1997)

Low

Id

id

None

None

Good

Satisfying


Bigeye

2 500

Low

Id

id

None - Low

Freeze effort

Good

Satisfying


1. Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) (Note: this potential can only be reached by fixing a corresponding effort level (FMSY), which in some cases imply a decline in effort; 2. Current excess in fishing effort to reach catch potential ((f98-fMSY)/f98); 3. Natural variability of stocks independently from the exploitation (recruitment variability); * No assessment was undertaken in 1998. 1993 Values and recommendations. ** No 1998 assessment. 1998 Values and recommendations.


[84] Ministry of Fisheries and Maritime Economy, Department of Studies and Fisheries Management, Nouakchott, Mauritania. Email: dearh@mpem.mr

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