FAO in Mozambique

Research cruise paves the way for ecosystem-based management of fisheries resources in Maputo Bay


21 February 2022- This Monday, the Minister of Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries of Mozambique, Her excellency Augusta Maita, joined an ecosystem research cruise in Maputo Bay that the Fisheries Research Institute (IIP), under supervision of the Ministry (MIMAIP), is carrying out 16 February to 2 March to inform management plans for fisheries and marine environment.

The survey is conducted through support by the SWIOFC-NC PP, a Partnership Project between the Southwest Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission and the Nairobi Convention for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine Environment and Coastal Western Indian Ocean executed jointly by the FAO and UNEP. The project is funded by Sweden to support countries in the Western Indian Ocean to develop and implement coordinated approaches to sustainable management of fisheries and associated coastal ecosystems. Maputo Bay is one of two locations selected for project demonstration activities in Mozambique.

Accompanying the Minister on to the cruise were senior technicians from the Ministry, including the Director of the IIP, Mr. Jorge Mafuca, as well as the Regional Coordinator of the SWIOFC-NC PP, Ms Ulrika Gunnartz, the National Project Coordinator for Mozambique, Mr Erudito Malate and Mr Paulo da Conceição Júnior, Program Officer for Environment and Climate Change at the Swedish Embassy in Maputo.

On the occasion, Her Excellency Augusta Maita, stressed the importance of the cruise for monitoring impacts of fisheries activities and the distribution and abundance of species that occur in the bay, to provide data and information for taking measures to ensure the sustainable use of these resources and maximize benefits for local communities and the national economy.

In turn, Ms. Ulrika Gunnartz, representing FAO in Mozambique and the SWIOFC-NC PP project, underlined the importance of investing in research for evidence based policies - one of the pillars for implementing an ecosystem approach for sustainable blue growth, livelihoods and healthy seas. She expressed her appreciation for the commitment and dedication of MIMAIP and the Ministry of Land and Environment (MTA) in partnering with the SWIOFC-NC PP to demonstrate how a collaborative approach for managing fisheries and the environment can work in practice.

The fishery captures many different species including shrimp, fish, squid, cuttlefish and rays. Shrimp and prawns are the most commercially interesting resources, with the species Penaeus indicus (White indian prawn) and Metapenaeus monoceros (Brown shrimp) standing out due to their commercial value and relative abundance. Other shrimp species caught are Penaeus japonicus (Japanese tiger prawn), Penaeus semisulcatus (green tiger prawn), Penaeus monodon (Giant tiger prawn), Metapenaeus stebbingi (Peregrine shrimp), Metapenaeus dobsoni (Kadal shrimp) and Parapenaeopsis sculptilis (Rainbow shrimp). Commonly caught fish include Leiognathus equulus (Common ponyfish), Pomadasys kaakan (Stonefish), Jhonius dussumieri (Sin croaker), Otolithes ruber (Tigertooth croaker), Pomadasys maculatus (Saddle grunt), Carangoides malabaricus (Xmalabar Trevalli), Gazza minuta (Tooth pony), Drepane longimanus (Concertina fish) and Hilsa kelee (Kelee shad).

As one of the main fisheries in Maputo Bay, shrimp fisheries is an important source of employment and food security for coastal communities in the area, benefiting at least 3000 families (among fishermen, traders and shipwrights). It is carried out by a semi-industrial fleet with ice storage (commercial) and artisanal fleet using different methods, including a small group of fishers without a boat (collectors). Historical records indicate annual catches of around 800 tons, corresponding to the period 1965-1972. However, more recent assessments estimate the average annual catch to around 400 ton, with 30% caught by the artisanal fleet and 70% by the semi-industrial.

The first systematic survey covering Maputo Bay was carried out in February 2018 and repeated again 2019-2021 during the seasonal closure of the shrimp fisheries. The trawl surveys are conducted in transects across the bay using the same type of vessel and methods as the semi-commercial shrimp fisheries and also taking CTD measurements. CTD stands for conductivity, temperature and depth, and is an essential tool used in all disciplines of oceanography to provide important information about physical, chemical, and even biological properties of the water column.

By repeating the survey several years in a row, at the same time and using the same methods consistently, the IIP can analyse trends in abundance and fishing effort on different species over time and possible linkages to environmental factors such as salinity, temperature and dissolved oxygen measured with the CTD. The survey data provides the basis for advice on suitable management measures to maintain sustainable levels of fishing effort, developing effective and selective fishing methods, as well as identifying and adjusting to other environmental impacts on the stocks such as climate change.

The results of this year's survey will be analysed and presented by the IPP in May 2022 to inform subsequent activities supported through the SWIOFC-NC PP in 2022-2023, which include operationalizing the Marine Spatial Plan for the area, the development of a Fisheries Management Plan for Maputo Bay, updates to the recently created Maputo National Park Management Plan, as well as management and restoration plans for mangroves and seagrasses.