Shark Finning & Illegal Fishing Practices
Both artisanal fisheries operating inshore and foreign vessels offshore target the marine resources of southern Mozambique. Many shark and ray (elasmobranch) species are caught by inshore net and line fisheries in the Inhambane Province, including manta rays (Manta spp.), devil rays (Mobula spp.), whiprays (Himantura spp.), stingrays (Dasyatis spp.), white-spotted eagle rays (Aetobatus narinari), leopard sharks (Stegostoma fasciatum), whaler sharks (Carcharhinus spp.) and hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna spp.).
Inshore fisheries are extremely lucrative by local standards, with the fins from a single shark worth around 3000 Mets (approximately US$120). The local white-spotted guitarfish (Rhynchobatus djiddensis) and bowmouth guitarfish (Rhina ancyclostoma) populations have been particularly hard-hit, with anecdotal reports suggesting that these species have been reduced to very low levels on reefs where they were abundant before long-line fisheries began locally in the early 2000’s.
The fisheries sector contributes 40-50% of foreign exchange earnings to the Mozambican economy. Unfortunately, the lack of infrastructure available for coastal monitoring and law enforcement leaves the country vulnerable to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing by foreign-owned vessels. IUU fishing is usually unsustainable for both target species and the ecosystem. These vessels have relatively low costs and few social responsibilities compared to licensed operators, driving them to irresponsible exploitation of resources. The estimated 2003-2004 cost of IUU fishing to Mozambique was close to $40 million. The Fisheries Agency of Japan estimated in 2005 that 150-200 Taiwanese vessels were operating shark finning long-line fisheries in the Western Indian Ocean.
To document and combat these illegal and unsustainable practices a network of tourism operators and other interested parties have been contributing to the ‘Eyes on the Horizon’ initiative. By providing a centralized location to report IUU fishing or other concerns, EOTH hope to be able to provide relevant government departments with timely surveillance information to fill the current gap in infrastructure. Visit the EOTH website for more information.
A primary target of IUU shark finning operations in the Western Indian Ocean is the giant guitarfish, Rhynchobatus djiddensis. See the IUCN Red List assessment for this species for a summary of fishing impacts in southern Africa.
An extensive photo library of fishing and finning shots are available upon request. Please contact us for details.