The key role of the Northern Mozambique Channel for Indian Ocean tropical tuna fisheries

  • Emmanuel ChassotEmail author
  • Nathalie Bodin
  • Fany Sardenne
  • David Obura


The Northern Mozambique Channel (NMC) is a tropical area of ~ 1 million km2 where pelagic fisheries supply proteins to more than 9 million people living in Comoros, Mayotte, and along the coasts of Mozambique, Tanzania and Madagascar. Although uncertain, statistics suggest that about 20,000 mt of tropical tuna and other pelagic fish are annually caught by artisanal fisheries in the area. The NMC is also a major seasonal fishing ground for high-seas fleets that export an annual average catch of more than 20,000 mt to tuna can and sashimi markets of high-income countries for a value estimated to be more than 100 million USD. The fisheries productivity of the NMC appears to be highly variable in relation to strong annual and seasonal variability in oceanographic conditions. Our review shows that the NMC is a key feeding area for tropical tunas and a major spawning area for skipjack tuna thanks to warm waters and strong mesoscale activity that results in the enrichment of surface waters and efficient energy transfers enabled by short food chains. Projections of climate models under future warming scenarios predict some strong changes in the oceanographic conditions of the NMC which has already experienced substantial warming over the last decades. Changes in the pelagic ecosystem of the NMC could have dramatic consequences on the coastal populations that are expected to increase towards 100 million people by 2100. Improving monitoring systems and collecting information on the socio-economics of coastal fisheries is crucial to assess the dependence of NMC populations on tuna resources and empower the countries to more involvement in the management of tuna stocks.


Bigeye Fisheries management Mozambique Channel Skipjack Yellowfin 



We are grateful to all the people involved in the collection and management of the data used in the present study, in particular the staff of the IOTC Secretariat for their dedication to their work. Special thanks to Fabio Fiorellato, James Geehan, Lucia Pierre, and Dan Fu. Catch and effort data were extracted from the global tuna fisheries database initiated by Alain and Viceca Fonteneau and further developed and consolidated through a collaboration between FAO and IRD. We are grateful to the many persons involved in the Tuna Atlas project, in particular Paul Taconet, Julien Barde, Emmanuel Blondel, Aymen Charef and Marc Taconet. The database and services of the Tuna Atlas are currently hosted by the Institute of Information Science and Technologies (CNR-ISTI) and the work received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the BlueBRIDGE project (Grant Agreement No. 675680). Liam Campling provided information on international tuna prices (FFA Trade Bulletin). The tuna tagging data analysed in this publication were collected by the Regional Tuna Tagging Project of the Indian Ocean (RTTP-IO) funded under the 9th European Development Fund (9.ACP.RSA.005/006) of the European Union. The RTTP-IO was implemented by the Indian Ocean Commission under the technical supervision of the IOTC. We wish to acknowledge the contributions of the project staff and all the technicians, recovery officers and fishers that have been involved in the RTTP-IO. Reproduction and morphometric data were mostly collected through the project EMOTION funded by the French National Research agency (ANR 11 JSV7 007 01), the EU Data Collection Framework (Reg. 199/2008 and 665/2008), Fundación Centros Tecnológicos, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of the Basque Government, and the PEVASA fishing company. James Mbugua (CORDIO) provided assistance with NMC boundaries and Umair Shahid useful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. Many thanks to Pierrick Penven for pointing out very useful references on the oceanographic features of the Northern Mozambique Channel and Simon Hoyle for discussions and advice on statistical models. Laurent Pinault provided information on fisheries agreements. We finally thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments that helped improve the manuscript. The present study was funded by a WWF grant as part of the Northern Mozambique Channel Initiative.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOC 983 kb)


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Seychelles Fishing AuthorityVictoriaSeychelles
  2. 2.MARBEC, Univ. Montpellier, CNRS, Ifremer, IRDVictoriaSeychelles
  3. 3.Maurice Lamontagne Institute, Fisheries & Oceans CanadaMont-JoliCanada
  4. 4.CORDIO East AfricaMombasaKenya

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