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Part I Overview and main indicators

  1. Country brief
  2. General geographic and economic indicators
  3. FAO Fisheries statistics

Part II Narrative (2019)

  1. Production sector
    • Marine sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
      • Fishing communities
    • Inland sub-sector
    • Aquaculture sub-sector
    • Recreational sub-sector
  2. Post-harvest sector
    • Fish utilization
    • Fish markets
  3. Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector
    • Role of fisheries in the national economy
    • Trade
    • Food security
    • Employment
    • Rural development
  4. Trends, issues and development
    • Constraints and opportunities
    • Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies
    • Research, education and training
      • Research
      • Education and training
    • Foreign aid
  5. Institutional framework
  6. Legal framework
    • Regional and international legal framework
  7. Annexes
  8. References

Additional information

  1. FAO Thematic data bases
  2. Publications
  3. Meetings & News archive

Part I Overview and main indicators

Part I of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile is compiled using the most up-to-date information available from the FAO Country briefs and Statistics programmes at the time of publication. The Country Brief and the FAO Fisheries Statistics provided in Part I may, however, have been prepared at different times, which would explain any inconsistencies.

Country briefPrepared: April, 2020

The marine fisheries sector is one of the main pillars of the national economy. Total marine catch, by the approximately 3 816 national vessels of the industrial and artisanal fishery, was about 967 706 tonnes in 2018. In addition to that, Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs), including the European Union, the Russian Federation and vessels flying flags of convenience operating under an open licence regime, caught another 439000 tonnes in the Mauritanian EEZ. The quantities effectively landed in Mauritania originated mostly from artisanal catches and a part of the industrial catch which is transformed at local factories. Several of the important fishery resources are shared with neighbour states. The most recent assessment shows that important stocks such as sardinella and octopus are overexploited. The inland fishery is seasonal and is conducted on several water bodies, mainly the Senegal river and its tributaries. Catches, estimated at approximately 15000 tonnes, are consumed by the fisher’s families or sold locally. The employment was estimated in 2018 with a total of 180 420 people was reported to be engaged in fishing. A total of 3 816 vessels were estimated for 2018.

Except some pilot experiences rearing jellyfish, aquaculture is practically non-existent.  National demand for fish is low, and the average consumption per capita, originating mainly from the artisanal sector, is estimated at between 8 and 10 kg/year, and can reach up to 20 kg/year in the urban areas of the coast, Nouakchott and Nouadhibou.

Traditionally, more than 95 per cent of catches from the Mauritanian EEZ are exported. The export value of fisheries products was estimated at about USD 828 million in 2017. However, the main commercial transactions are linked to the selling of fishing licenses to foreign fleets, rather than fisheries products.
General geographic and economic indicators

Shelf area 36,256 km2 http://www.seaaroundus.org
Length of continental coastline 754 km http://world.bymap.org/Coastlines.html
Fisheries GDP (year) N/A Estimates available in Part 2 - narrative
Title: Table 1 - General Geographic and Economic Data - Mauritania

Key statistics

Country area1 030 700km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Land area1 030 700km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Inland water area0km2Computed. Calculated, 2013
Population - Est. & Proj.4.124millionsFAOSTAT. Official data, 2018
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area173 728km2VLIZ
GDP (current US$)5 235millionsWorld Bank. 2018
GDP per capita (current US$)1 189US$World Bank. 2018
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing, value added25.92% of GDPWorld Bank. 2018

Source: FAO Country Profile

FAO Fisheries statisticsTable 2 in this section is based on statistics prepared by the FAO Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit and disseminated in 2020. The charts are based on the same source but these are automatically updated every year with the most recent statistics.

      1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2016 2017 2018
EMPLOYMENT (thousands) 7,9 32,5 36 136 180,4 180,4 180,4 180,4
  Capture 7,9 32,5 36 136 180,4 180,4 180,4 180,4
    Marine 7,9 32,5 36 136 180,4 180,4 180,4 180,4
FLEET(thousands boats) 2,5 2,9 3,7 3,8 3,8 3,8 3,8 3,8
Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics  
1) Due to roundings total may not sum up  
Title: Table 2 — FAO fisheries statistics - Mauritania

Please Note:Fishery statistical data here presented exclude the production for marine mammals, crocodiles, corals, sponges, pearls, mother-of-pearl and aquatic plants.


Updated 2019Part II Narrative

Part II of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile provides supplementary information that is based on national and other sources and that is valid at the time of compilation (see update year above). References to these sources are provided as far as possible.

Production sectorThe Islamic Republic of Mauritania is located in the north western part of the African continent, between 20 ° 36 North to South of the Sahara and 16 ° 04 South North of Senegal. With 1 030 000 km2, Mauritania is a huge country, with 90% of the territory corresponding to Saharan desert areas. The Atlantic coast of Mauritania is 720 km long sides. The continental shelf of Mauritania is 32 366 km2 and the exclusive, large 200-mile economic zone covers an area of 162 166 km2. Marine waters are swept by the Canary cold current coming down from the North to the South and Guinea marine current that goes South to the North, thus ensuring a productive fisheries through the presence of the phenomenon of upwelling (lift marine water bodies surface deep rich in raw).

Mauritanian waters are known for the abundance, diversity and the economic importance of its fisheries resources. This marine wealth comes from hydroclimatic conditions, in particular, of a powerful rebound in cold waters (upwelling) which is originally a high primary production and an important development in the trophic chain Navy. This exceptional wealth can be explained also by the role of nursery that would play the eastern part of Banc D'arguin, where marine species are reproducing and houses one of the largest areas marine protected from Africa (the Arguin bench National Park).

Marine sub-sector

Catch profileMarine fisheries are divided into industrial fisheries and small-scale and coastal fisheries. The industrial fisheries are divided into bottom fisheries (octopuses, crustaceans and demersal fish) and pelagic fisheries (sardinella, horse mackerels, sabres, mackerel).

Landing sitesNouakchott and Nouadhibou are the main landing sites. Smaller, artisanal landing sites are present along the coast.

Fishing practices/systemsThere are three main systems of fisheries in the country:Small-scale fisheries (national, chartered). Coastal fisheries (national, chartered and foreign) Industrial fisheries (national, chartered and foreign).

The artisanal fisheries use nets, gillnet, traps, longlines, and traps as fishing gear. These boats fish in areas that are maximum 20 m deep and within 6 miles from shore. The artisanal fisheries generally target the coastal fish. The small-scale fishing fleet (which essentially continues to target octopus) is growing continuously.

Vessels registered in the coastal fisheries category mainly catch octopus. Foreign coastal fishing boats regularly operating in Mauritanian waters are essentially composed of seiners (a unit consisting of two boats) targeting small pelagic fisheries. A number of units operate under the fishing agreement with Senegal, while others operate as chartered vessels. Industrial pelagic fleet was until recently only composed of foreign ships operating under free licenses or chartered.

The industrial fisheries use trawls and purse seines. In addition to the local fishing vessels, there are several vessels from foreign countries exploiting the fisheries resources under bilateral fishing agreements. The size of the industrial demersal fishing fleet operating in the Mauritanian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) declined in recent years, mainly to the shutdown of the octopus fleet from the European Union (EU); the departure of some fleets (Chinese, European); and the cessation of the activity of national ships (aging of the fleet). Catches of the industrial fleet are dominated by cephalopods, which are on average 70% of landings with a declining trend in line with the reduction of the number of vessels.

Main resourcesMarine fish resources are abundant in Mauritanian waters, with almost 600 species of fish that have been inventoried and with more than 200 species that are subject of commercial exploitation. The main commercial resources are octopuses, shrimp, demersal species such as seabass, and small pelagics such as sardinella.

Six major groups of fisheries, including four fisheries demersal resources and two fisheries in pelagic resources, support the bulk of the fishery in Mauritania. Pelagic resources are shared resources, and their management must necessarily take place in a framework of subregional cooperation. The six major groups of fisheries are the following: Cephalopods (octopus, cuttlefish, squid); Demersal fish inshore and deep sea (bream, grouper, soles, rays and sharks, red mullet, hake...); Crustaceans (coastal and deep sea shrimp, lobsters and crabs); Bivalve (with a stock of clams untapped today due to technical and sanitary constraints); Small pelagics (sardinella, sardines, horse mackerels, mackerel, ethmalose, anchovies, small tuna, mullet, courbine); Major tuna species (albacore, yellowfin, skipjack).

All these fishery resources in the waters under Mauritanian jurisdiction have an estimated potentially Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) of between 1.5 million and 1.8 million tonnes per year.

Octopus is overexploited and subject to closed seasons and strict controls. The most recent assessment shows that also the sardinella resource is overexploited. The other species seem to be able to support increased fishing efforts.

Management applied to main fisheriesThe Maritime Law of 2015 is the basis for fisheries management in Mauritania. The first chapter describes the development and sustainable management of fisheries, which provides opportunities of allowable catches (Total Allowable Catch (TAC) defined for each main resource); a legal and institutional framework for fisheries management (planning and fisheries management plans; the National Advisory Council for planning and development of the fisheries and the institutions attached; and Territorial Advisory Committees for the development and management of fisheries). There are clear indications on the access rights to fisheries resources and the right of use (its definition, its concession, the operation of its concession).

Management objectivesThe Maritime Law of 2015 in its introductory chapter describes fisheries resources as national heritage: the State has an obligation to manage in the interest of the national community.

Management measures and institutional arrangementsManagement measure include TACs, closed seasons, and other tailored measures for fisheries management

Fishing communitiesThere are two main landing sites, which are also the two main towns of the country, plus a number of smaller artisanal landing sites. There is an important presence of Senegalese fishers and of female Senegalese fish processors at the landings sites.

Inland sub-sectorThe continental and river segment fisheries remain very marginal. The inland fishery is seasonal and is conducted on several water bodies, mainly the Senegal River and its tributaries. Catches, estimated at approximately 15 000 tonnes, are consumed by the fisher’s families or sold locally. There are no management measures in place for inland fisheries.

Aquaculture sub-sectorNo aquaculture exists in the country.

Recreational sub-sectorPractically no recreational fisheries exist in the country.

Post-harvest sectorFish utilizationIn general, Mauritanian fishery products are sold without value addition, often in fresh form for the local market or exported in whole frozen form.

Local processing is limited to the freezing of whole products, some simple processes such heading and gutting, traditional processing (drying, salting drying, etc.) and to the industrial products (mainly fishmeal and fish oil). Production of canned food and dishes remain, for now, marginal.

Fish marketsThere are wholesale markets in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou, around which the main fish selling activities are carried out. Through various projects and government activities, fish outlets were established in the two main cities and in the inland areas, however, the effectiveness of these markets is doubtful.

Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sectorRole of fisheries in the national economyThe fishery in Mauritania generates socio-economic benefits of utmost importance and occupies a strategic place in the national economy by its significant contribution to income, employment, macroeconomic balance and food security. The sector of fishing is considered to be a sustainable source of wealth and creation of value addition. The marine fisheries sector is one of the main pillars of the national economy. Estimates of fisheries contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) vary between 4 and 10 percent, representing about one fourth of the Government budgetary resources. The latest figure put the share at 6%.

TradeMauritanian fisheries is mainly export oriented. Almost all of the Mauritanian fisheries production goes for export (over 90%). Commercialization of unprocessed frozen products is made by the channel of the Société mauritanienne pour la commercialisation de poisson (SMCP). Some fresh and sophisticated products are exported by some private companies, but this is still the exception. Imports are practically nil.

Food securityFish is not a preferred food item in Mauritania. Therefore the contribution of fisheries to food security is indirectly through the creation of employment.

Several initiatives have been encouraged to facilitate the supply of the national market. In particular, there is a landing obligation of a quota of fish as part of the access regimes to pelagic resources (e.g. fisheries agreement with Senegal, circuits of distribution of fish developed). All of these efforts have led to an important increase in the consumption of fish and real changes in eating habits among the Mauritanian population.

EmploymentThe number of fishers is estimated at 180400, mainly in the artisanal sector.

Rural developmentFisheries are locally important; the government has a well-structured fisheries development mechanism in place, which helps the sector to maintain its momentum.

Trends, issues and developmentConstraints and opportunitiesOne of the main constraints is the overexploitation of the valuable octopus resource, which seems to continue despite the various closed seasons implemented in the country.

The other constraint is the desert condition on most of the long coastline, which does not favor a good development. This long coastline makes also the surveillance and monitoring of illegal fishing activities very complicated.

Government and non-government sector policies and development strategiesThe Government has currently in place a Plan of Action for the Sector, the National Responsible Management Strategy for Sustainable Development of Fisheries and the Maritime Economy 2015-2019 focusing on six main areas of operational lines:

  1. Improve knowledge of fisheries resources and their environment;
  2. Optimize management of the exploitation of fishery resources;
  3. Strengthen the integration of the fisheries sector into the national economy;
  4. Develop maritime affairs;
  5. Promote the development of inland fisheries and aquaculture;
  6. Strengthening good governance of fisheries.

Research, education and trainingResearchThe Institut Mauritanien de recherche Océanographique et des Pêches (IMROP) is the official Mauritanian research entity for fisheries. Under the tutelage of the Mauritanian Ministry of fisheries and maritime economy, its main purpose is to analyze the constraints and the determinants of biological, physical, socio-economic and technical issues of the fisheries sector.

IMROP includes four research departments
  • living resources and environment
  • exploitation and development
  • statistics and computer science
  • value addition, and sanitary inspection

Education and trainingThe EU is supporting vocational training in Mauritania, together with employability of youth in areas with high potential of job creation, including fishing.

Foreign aidThe Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) assisted the Mauritanian government with various project in fisheries, including the formulation of legal frameworks and fish in nutrition promotion activities. Japan assisted the construction of a wholesale market for fishery products in Nouakchott. The EU fisheries agreement, 2015-2019, contributes to the annual budget of the Mauritanian State, in respect of fishing licenses, which provides support for the development of the fisheries sector and the preservation of the marine environment. Disbursement figures is currently at about 50 to 55 million euros a year for licenses.

Institutional frameworkThe Ministre des Pêches et de l’Economie Maritime (the Ministry of Fisheries and Maritime Economy) is the responsible ministry for fisheries in the country.

Legal frameworkThe Law No. 2015-017 of July 29, 2015 covers maritime fisheries. Apart from the management rules that are described in chapter 4.2.3. above, the law promotes marine aquaculture, the safety of marine fishery products, and the fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Regional and international legal frameworkSince July 1996, Mauritania is party to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the law of the sea (UNCLOS); and is signatory to the 1995 Agreement on straddling and highly migratory stocks.

Mauritania is active member of Fishery Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic (CECAF), International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), International Whaling Commission (IWC), Ministerial Conference on Fisheries Cooperation Among African States Bordering the Atlantic (COMHAFAT-ATLAFCO), and the Subregional Fisheries Commission (SRFC)


CECAF Fishery Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic
GDP Gross Domestic Product
EEZ Exclusive Economic Zone
EU European Union
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
ICCAT International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas
IMROP Institut mauritanien de recherche océanographique et des pêches
IUU Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated
IWC International Whaling Commission
COMHAFAT-ATLAFCO Ministerial Conference on Fisheries Cooperation Among African States Bordering the Atlantic
MSY Maximum Sustainable Yield
SMCP Société mauritanienne pour la commercialisation de poisson
SRFC Subregional Fisheries Commission
TAC Total Allowable Catch
UNCLOS United Nations Convention on the law of the sea


Additional information

FAO Thematic data bases

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