Fisheries and Resources Monitoring System

Marine resources - Western Indian Ocean
Fact Sheet Title  Fact Sheet
Review of the state of world marine fishery resources 2011
Marine resources - Western Indian Ocean
Fact Sheet Citation  
Owned byFood and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – ownership
ident Blockident Blockdisplay tree map
Species List: All aquatic species
ident Block Marine resources - Western Indian Ocean
Aq Res
Biological Stock: No         Value: Regional
Management unit: No        Reference year: 2009
Aq Res State Trend

To access all FIRMS reports available for this Area, please look at:
Area 51 reports

Marine resources of Eastern Arabian Sea: India, Pakistan, Maldives

The three largest fisheries on the west coast of India are Indian oil sardine (Sardinella longipes), Bombay-duck and shrimp or prawn fisheries. The Indian oil sardine fishery occurs on both the west and east coasts of India although it is concentrated in large shoals along the southwest coast of Kerala and Mysore. The fishery, which in 2001 landed 288 000 tonnes from the west coast, is a mixed artisanal/industrial fishery and utilizes dugout canoes (Kerala coast), out-rigger vessels (Maharashtra and Karnataka coasts) and purse seiners (offshore areas) to take the fish. The fishery fluctuates significantly from year to year in response to oceanic conditions and particularly the abundance of phytoplankton blooms (Fragillaria oceanica, Coscinodiscus spp. and Pleurosigma spp.).
These blooms and the extent of upwelling along the southwest coast of India that support them appear to be the major drivers of sardine productivity. As a consequence, there has been little concern about the status of the stocks despite rising levels of fishing effort. The stock is currently assessed as underexploited (Vivekanandan et al., 2010).
The fishery for Bombay-duck (Harpodon nehereus) contributes about 10 percent of the average national landings in India and, in 2001, 143 000 tonnes were landed along the west coast. The species has a wide and discontinuous distribution along both the east and west coasts of India. However, the northwest coastal states of Gujarat and Maharashtra contribute the largest catches. Fishing methods used to take Bombay duck vary between regions. The status of the stock of Bombay-duck is estimated to be fully exploited (Vivekanandan et al., 2010). Spawning and recruitment appear more or less continuous on the west coast, although peaking in the monsoon period between September and December.
The prawn or shrimp fisheries of the west coast of India target a large number of both penaeid and non-penaeid species. In Kerala in the southwest and along the west coast, Penaeus indicus, P. monodon, Metapenaeus dobsoni, M. monoceros, M. affinis, Parapenaeopsis stylifera, P. sculptillis and P. hardwickii are the major contributors to the catch. The species mix is dependent both on location and on the seasonal monsoons in coastal waters. Most shrimp fisheries on the west coast are subject to exploitation throughout their life cycle. There are large, traditional fisheries for juveniles occurring in the backwaters and estuaries of Kerala and other states and both traditional and large mechanized trawl fisheries for adults in offshore waters. The overall stock of shrimps is believed to be fully exploited (Vivekanandan et al., 2010).
The Coastal Fishing Policy in India has an open-access regime, which has resulted in a sector with many entrants exploiting coastal marine resources at and beyond their full potential. Pakistan’s landings of marine fish have been about 0.5 million tonnes in the last few years and marine capture fisheries employ about 379 000 fishers (Jarwar, 2008). However, it is not known how many vessels are operating at the moment. Pakistan seems to be lacking in terms of fishery data collection and management. Very little is known about the state of fish stocks in Pakistan’s territorial waters.
Marine resources of the RECOFI area

Fishing in the RECOFI is done using motorized dhows and sambuks, smaller wooden vessels and industrial-style trawlers. Nearly all of these still use ice to preserve their catch. Trawling has been banned in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Iran (Islamic Republic of) has also severely limited the use of trawlers inside the Persian Gulf, where such fishing is only permitted during the shrimp fishing season. The Iranian industrial trawl fishery that used to operate within the Persian Gulf is now restricted to fishing in the Gulf of Oman and the northwest Arabian Sea.
Accurate information on the state of individual stock and species continues to remain difficult to obtain, where it exists at all. This is because of the common practice of reporting catches in a highly aggregated form. The available catch data suggest that most fish groups are fully exploited. Three resources remain of major concern in Area 51: Spanish mackerel, shrimp (various Penaeid and Metapenaeid species) and a range of percid fishes, particularly groupers.
The average total annual landings of shrimps and prawns in the subarea were about 15 000 tonnes before 2005, while fluctuating between 10 000 and 20 000 tonnes. They then increased to 25 000 tonnes in 2009. Most species are considered fully exploited, but not overfished when information from the trend in catch, biology of shrimps and prawns and the seasonal closure in most countries is considered.
Kingfish (Scomberomorus commerson; Scombridae) is a popular target and it is commercially important in the RECOFI area. The total catch in the RECOFI countries reached a peak of 44 000 tonnes in 1988, but then dropped gradually to 15 000 tonnes in 2009. Because of the large volume and high value of the kingfish landings, scientific research on the fishery has boomed in the last few years. All the studies in Iran (Islamic Republic of) (Shojaei et al., 2007), the United Arab Emirates (Grandcourt et al., 2005), and Oman (Govender et al., 2006; Meriem, Al-Marzouqi and Al-Mamry, 2007) conclude that kingfish is overfished.
The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) met in Oman in February 2010 and agreed on a two-month (15 August–15 October) closure of fishing each year and a minimum landing size of 65 cm (fork length). This is the first initiative for a regional fishery regulation in the RECOFI area. However, Iran (Islamic Republic of) was not involved in this effort. It currently catches about 10 000 tonnes of kingfish, which is about two-thirds of the total of the GCC countries. Kingfish is a highly migratory species, and it is believed that the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea share a single stock (Hoolihan, Anandh and van Herwerden, 2006). Regulatory measures that are not implemented on the whole kingfish stock will not be effective or achieve the long-term sustainability of the fishery.
The most important group caught in the region are tuna and tuna-like species. These fishes form the largest catch component in the RECOFI area and their status can be found in Chapter C1. Another species group that may deserve special attention in terms of management are groupers. The catches of these species have declined dramatically since the early 2000s and are currently of great concern.

Marine resources of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden

The overwhelming majority of fisheries in the Red Sea are small-scale and artisanal industries. These fisheries operate near the coast and catch a wide variety of demersal species. Fishing operations in the Red Sea range from foot fishers, who fish from land mainly for their own consumption, to very large trawlers with freezing facilities. The most commonly used types of fishing gear are handlines and gillnets operated from boats equipped with outboard (i.e. houris) and inboard (i.e. sambuks) engines. Red Sea fisheries are typical multigear and multispecies tropical fisheries with fishing vessels between 5 and 20 m in length.
The nature of multispecies and multigear tropical fisheries in this subarea, together with the poor quality of catch statistics, makes stock assessment difficult. The landings of all the top ten species groups have declined in the last few years, with the exception of Indian mackerel. Therefore, with the exception of some small pelagic resources with weak markets, the status of the various resources should to be assumed as fully exploited.
However, it must be borne in mind that no explicit stock assessment information on the status of the fishery resources is available for Area 51. The landings data show clearly that the growth in catches declined sharply in the 1990s, being effectively constant in the last few years. Detailed analysis of the data is unwarranted because of the high “estimated” catches for these countries and changing patterns in disaggregation of the data. Increases in different categories may be best explained by increased disaggregation by species in the reported figures.
Fishery management appears weak in this region. The small areas available for trawling and the absence of any effective regulation in many parts of the Red Sea probably result in fisheries that are quickly fully exploited or overexploited. Markets for fish in the region are strong, particularly in Yemen and Egypt along with Saudi Arabia for higherpriced species. Low market demand for small pelagics has resulted in reduced fishing for these species. This reduction has been most noticeable with the withdrawal of East European operators that had fished there to supply their home markets.
Marine resources of the SWIOFC area (Somalia to South Africa)

The Scientific Committee of the SWIOFC started a process to estimate the status of focus fish groups in the region in 2006 (FAO, 2008), and continued this process in 2008 (FAO, 2009) and again in 2010 (FAO, 2011b). Most countries in the region have only catch statistics that are very roughly grouped. For example, Maldives groups its catch by four size classes regardless of species. Fishing effort information is also not available for the majority of fisheries in the SWIOFC area. Most countries have a vessel registration system in place, but these records give no information about what fisheries the vessel is involved in and whether the vessel is or is not currently in operation. Because of the very limited research capacity of member countries in the region, stock status is often determined on the basis of empirical indicators such as CPUE and survey catch rates, and by educated or expert judgements.
A total of 137 species (stocks) were selected for assessment by the Scientific Committee, but only 107 stocks or species were assessed in 2010. Of the assessed species, 35 percent were fully exploited, 36 percent were non-fully exploited and 34 percent were overexploited (FAO, 2010). This result is similar to the global state of marine fish resources. Although more stocks have become depleted, a large proportion of the fisheries are still underexploited.
Shrimps and prawns are among the most important species group in this region, and their catches increased to 30 000 tonnes in 2003–07. However, only half the peak catch, 15 000 tonnes, was landed in 2009. It is probable that some shrimp and prawn stocks may have been overfished. Because of their short life span and low trophic level that shrimps and prawn occupy, fluctuation in catch is common and stocks can often recover relatively quickly even if they are overfished.
The prawn fishery in the United Republic of Tanzania for the past decade has experienced drastic declines in catch. Commercial prawn production declined from 1 320 tonnes in 2003 to 202 tonnes in 2007, despite the reduction in fishing effort. In 2008, the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI) reported a serious decline in prawn stocks on the coast of the United Republic of Tanzania that was linked to higher levels of resource exploitation (FAO, 2011b). The report was discussed in a joint meeting involving TAFIRI and the prawn fishery stakeholders (small-, medium- and large-scale fishers) and a resolution to close the fishery for two years was agreed. From the latest assessment, the prawn stock has not recovered and may need more time to recover. In 2010, the industrial sector of the shrimp fishery remained closed, but the artisanal sector resumed fishing.
The stock of Palinurus delagoae off the central/southern coast of Mozambique was reported as depleted 13 years ago. When the fishing industry recognized that the fishery was no longer economically viable, most of the vessels stopped fishing and the fishery was formally closed by the national fisheries authority. In order to allow recovery of the stock, licences ceased to be issued in 2007 for vessels that target this lobster species.
This management measure was complemented by scientific monitoring of the stock (FAO, 2011b).
While the coastal fisheries are harvested mostly by coastal States, the more lucrative oceanic fisheries are mostly harvested by distant-water fleets from Europe and East Asia. Despite this, and the low coastal catches, fishing and its associated economic activities are important to local economies. In some of the southwest Indian Ocean countries, fish are almost the only source of animal protein available to the local populations. Moreover, in a region faced with scarcities of foreign exchange, exports of fishery products represent vital sources of exchangeable earnings. The shrimp fishery on the Sofala Bank is important to  Mozambique for foreign exchange earnings, and similarly for Madagascar. The industrial shrimp fishery in Mozambique is scientifically monitored and actively managed. Recent analyses suggest that the resource is fully exploited and that fishing effort should be reduced for reasons of economic efficiency. Effort controls should involve not only the number of vessels and seasonal closures but also the size of the gear used.
Habitat Bio
Climatic Zone: Tropical; Temperate; Polar.  

Water Area Overview
Spatial Scale: Regional

The Western Indian Ocean (Figure B8.1) has a surface area of about 30 million km2, of which about 6.3 percent is continental shelf. It encompasses regions with greatly differing oceanographic and fishery resource characteristics. Within the Western Indian Ocean, the Northwest Arabian Sea is influenced by both northeast and southwest monsoons, and it includes extremely productive areas because of nearly continuous upwelling off the Oman coast (Sharp, 1995). Areas with seasonal upwelling occur off the coast of Iran (Islamic Republic of), Pakistan in the Gulf of Oman, and the Indian coast along the Arabian Sea. These seasonal upwellings also result in periods of high productivity. Two extensions to the Western Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, represent different marine environments compared with the rest of the Western Indian Ocean. However, these environments and their fisheries as still connected with the rest of the Western Indian Ocean. The Persian Gulf is a shallow enclosed waterbody characterized by high-temperature highly saline waters. The target species of fisheries in this region are associated with reefs and shallow tropical seas. Water enters the Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman, forming a counter-clockwise gyre. These waters exist as a submerged denser, warmer and more saline water mass moving towards the centre of the Indian Ocean.

The Persian Gulf is shallow; no part is deeper than 200 m and much of the north and west of the Persian Gulf is less than 50 m deep. It is fringed with extensive coral areas on the Arabian side. Most of the river discharge into the Persian Gulf is concentrated in the north, primarily from Iraq and Iran (Islamic Republic of) (Hamza and Manawar, 2009). This discharge provides important nutrients to support the primary productivity in the region. The increased diversion of water flowing into the Shatt al Arab at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers is of continuing concern to the Persian Gulf countries. This reduction in freshwater inflow, and thus nutrients, has arisen from human-made changes. The main change has come from drainage of marshes near the opening of the Shatt al Arab with the Persian Gulf, although there has also been diversion of water in Turkey and other countries further upstream (Al-Yamani, 2007). Ecological theory predicts that this must affect the biological productivity of the Persian Gulf but no information exists to quantify the consequences.

Figure B8.1 The Western Indian Ocean (FAO Area 51)
Water Area Overview
Aq Res Struct
Biological Stock: No

In the Red Sea, narrow continental shelves on both sides and its enclosed nature also create unique fisheries situations. Extensive demersal resources are primarily found on the wider continental shelves off the Eritrean coast (around the Dahlak Archipelago) and along the southern Red Sea coast of Yemen. The Gulf of Aden and Somali coasts are also monsoon-influenced upwelling areas that have seasons of high productivity.
In the Western Indian Ocean, there are two regional fisheries bodies with their zones of competence entirely within Area 51. The first is the Regional Commission for Fisheries (RECOFI), covering the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. While the second, the Southwest Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC), consists of the countries along the east coast of Africa from Somalia to South Africa. The eastern Arabian Sea (the western coast of India, Pakistan and partly Maldives) and the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden are not covered by these two regional commissions. Also present in the Western Indian Ocean is the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), which is responsible for the management of tunas and tuna-like species across the entire Indian Ocean. For the non-tuna species found outside of national jurisdictions, the South Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement made in 2006 seeks to promote the long-term sustainable management of fisheries.
The coastal waters in the eastern Arabian Sea are the most productive in Area 51, producing more the 60 percent of the total catch of the Western Indian Ocean. The RECOFI countries contributed about 20 percent, the SWIOFC countries along the African continent 10 percent and the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden the remaining 10 percent. Fisheries in these four regions have diverse and unique characteristics. Myctophids, or lantern fishes, are abundant in the Oman Sea (FAO, 1998). Iranian scientists estimated the total biomass of lantern fishes at 2.3 million tonnes in their waters based on acoustic surveys (Valinassab et al., 2006, Valinassab, Pierce and Johannesson, 2007). A similar biomass (1.9 million tonnes) was also estimated in Omani waters (FAO, 2011a). The possible development of a meal fishery for lantern fishes has attracted much attention recently. An Iranian company began trial fishing with paired vessels that purse-seined as close as 400 m from shore. However, the company found that it was commercially non-viable (Valinassab, Pierce and Johannesson, 2007).
Piracy and IUU in Somali waters and beyond are a serious concern. According to the High Seas Task Force, there were more than 800 IUU fishing vessels in Somali waters in 2005 taking advantage of Somalia’s inability to police and control its own waters and fishing ground. These IUU vessels were estimated to have taken more than US$450 million a year of fish (African Prospects, 2009).
In the Red Sea, ecotourism is an increasingly important activity in the two northern gulfs as well as in Eritrea. The beauty (and economic potential) of the coral reefs is being increasingly appreciated. Nearby, the fisheries situation in Somalia remains dismal with the country lacking even the most basic estimates of catches.

Profile of catches
Marine fisheries catches in the Western Indian Ocean were about 0.5 million tonnes per year in the 1950s. They reached a peak of 4.2 million tonnes in 2006 and have since dropped back slightly in the last few years (Figure B8.2, Table D9). The fastest growth in catch was seen from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. Growth was most pronounced in ISSCAAP Group 33 (miscellaneous coastal fishes, dominated by croakers and drums, and Bombay-duck), Group 36 (tunas and billfishes) and Group 39 (marine fishes not identified).
Figure B8.2 Annual nominal catches by ISSCAAP species groups in the Western Indian Ocean (FAO Area 51)

Based on mean annual catches, miscellaneous coastal fishes (Group 33) make the largest contribution, accounting for 20 percent of the total catch of the West Indian Ocean (Figure B8.2). This group is dominated by croakers and drums NEI. These species groups had a jump in catch in the mid-1970s and a fast increase in catch from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. Catch peaked at 300 000 tonnes in 1999 and then declined linearly back to 200 000 tonnes by 2009 (Figure B8.3). The second largest specie of the Group 33 species is Bombay-duck. Landings of this species showed a step-wise increase in the mid-1950s and 1970s, and in the late 1990s and 2000s. The most recent catch was 160 000 tonnes in 2009.
Figure B8.3 Annual nominal catches of selected species in ISSCAAP Group 33, Western Indian Ocean (FAO Area 51)

Tuna and tuna-like species (Group 36) are the second-largest group in the West Indian Ocean and account for about 17 percent of the total catch (Figure B8.2). Skipjack tuna, yellowfin tuna, bigeye tuna and narrow-barred Spanish mackerel are the major species caught. Skipjack tuna had the largest catch, 500 000 tonnes in 2006, which dropped to 300 00 tonnes in 2009. Both yellowfin and bigeye tunas had a similar trend, with a peak in 2003 and 2004, respectively, and a decrease of 40–50 percent by 2009. The catch of narrowbarred Spanish mackerel increased substantially between 1981 and 1985, and has remained about 60 000 tonnes since 1995 (Figure B8.4). The IOTC carries out regular assessments based on the catches of tuna. It has found that the catches of tuna, particularly from small-scale and artisanal fisheries operating within areas of national sovereignty, are poorly estimated in several countries, and it has started a programme to assist these countries to improve their catch data.
Figure B8.4 Annual nominal catches of selected species in ISSCAAP Group 36, Western Indian Ocean (FAO Area 51)

Marine fishes not identified (Group 39) accounts for 16 percent of the total catch in the Western Indian Ocean. Group 35 species (herrings, sardines, and anchovies) make a slightly smaller contribution of about 15 percent. Indian oil sardine is the major species of this latter group and annual catches of about 200 000 tonnes were made between 1965 and 1995. This has increased to about 300 000 tonnes in the last ten years (Figure B8.5). A pelagic species, its catch fluctuates widely between years. Clupeoids NEI were the second-largest species group, with a catch of less than 20 000 tonnes in the early 1950s. This increased to 60 000 tonnes in the early 1970s, and decreased in the late 1970s. The catch of clupeids NEI recovered rapidly in the 1980s to a peak of nearly 150 000 tonnes in 1992 but has since dropped back to 60 000 tonnes in 2009 (Figure B8.5). The catch of Indian mackerel does not show clear trends (Figure B8.5), but it has fluctuated widely over the years with the highest catch of 300 000 tonnes in the mid-1990s.
Figure B8.5 Annual nominal catches of selected species in ISSCAAP Group 35, Western Indian Ocean (FAO Area 51)

Shrimps and prawns (Group 45) accounted for 9 percent of total landings in the Western Indian Ocean. The four largest species groups in this category are natantian decapods NEI, giant tiger prawn, Parapenaeopsis shrimps NEI, and Panaeus shrimps NEI. The catch of the natantian decapods NEI group increased suddenly from about 5 000 tonnes in the late 1960s to 200 000 tonnes in the mid-1970s, but then showed an extended decline to 100 000 tonnes in 2009 (Figure B8.6). Giant tiger prawns were recorded in the catch only after 1990. The peak catch of about 200 000 tonnes was seen in 1995 and the most recently reported catch was 100 000 tonnes in 2009. Parapenaeopsis and Panaeus shrimps are also important species groups in this category, with peak landings of 20 000 tonnes and 10 000 tonnes, respectively (Figure B8.6). However, both species groups
showed large declines in catch after 1990, and the 2009 catches were only half those of the peak period in the 1980s and 1990s.
Figure B8.6 Annual nominal catches of selected species in ISSCAAP Group 45, Western Indian Ocean (FAO Area 51)

Eastern Arabian Sea: India, Pakistan and Maldives Reported catches for the eastern Arabian Sea reached a peak of 2.6 million tonnes in 1996 and have been roughly stable at this level since (Figure B8.7). This region accounts for more than 60 percent of the total catches of Area 51. India is the greatest contributor, producing about 2.5 million tonnes a year, and Pakistan and Maldives recently landed 400 000 and 100 000 tonnes, respectively. India’s catches have stagnated since reaching a peak in 1996. In contrast, Pakistan has seen its catch decline by about 10 percent from the peak of 0.5 million tonnes in 1992, and Maldives dropped by about 40 percent from 200 000 tonnes in 2005 to 120 000 tonnes in 2009.
The top ten categories landed in Area 51 were: marine fishes NEI, Indian oil sardine, croakers and drums NEI, natantian decapods NEI, Bombay-duck, Indian mackerel, sea catfish NEI, skipjack tuna, giant tiger prawn, and anchovies, etc. NEI. Pelagic or mesopelagic species dominate the catches of the top ten species groups, reflecting the common nature of upwelling ecosystems. Most of the pelagic species caught in Area 51, such as Indian oil sardine, Indian mackerel, and anchovies, show large fluctuations without a clear trend in catch. Clear declines in landings have been seen in the last decade for croakers and
drums, natantian decapods NEI, and Indian mackerel.
Figure B8.7 Annual nominal catches of selected countries in Western Indian Ocean (FAO Area 51)

The RECOFI area: Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman The RECOFI area showed a steady increase in overall catch from 350 000 tonnes in 1986 to about 700 000 tonnes in 2006. This has been followed by a small drop in total catch in the last three years (Figure B8.8). The Persian Gulf is part of the RECOFI area, and among the nine countries in RECOFI, only Iran (Islamic Republic of) and Oman undertake fishing both in and outside the Persian Gulf. In terms of catches, about half were captured inside the Persian Gulf and the other half from the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.
Iran (Islamic Republic of) is the largest fishery country in the RECOFI area and its catch reached 350 000 tonnes in 2009 followed by Oman (160 000 tonnes), Saudi Arabia (43 000 tonnes) and Bahrain (16 000 tonnes). Kuwait had the lowest catch among the RECOFI countries. Most countries, except Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, have experienced a continuous increase in catch since the catch statistics for the RECOFI area began being recorded separately in 1985. Kuwait recorded the highest catch of 10 000 tonnes in 1987 and has since seen its catch decline gradually to 4 000 tonnes in 2009. The catch is now below half of its peak. Similarly, the United Arab Emirates reached a peak of about 120 000 tonnes in 1999 and then dropped drastically back to under 80 000 tonnes in 2009.
ISSCAAP Group 36 (tunas, bonitos, billfishes) is the largest category in the RECOFI area and contributes 25 percent of total catches. This is followed by ISSCAAP Group 33 (miscellaneous coastal fishes) with 20 percent, Group 39 (marine fishes not identified) 19 percent, Group 37 (miscellaneous pelagic fishes) 13 percent, and Group 35 (herrings, sardines, anchovies) 11 percent. The composition of the catch is dominated by mostly pelagic species, including Indian oil sardine, yellowfin tuna, longtail tuna, skipjack tuna, narrow-barred Spanish mackerel, and pelagic percomorphs NEI. Some demersal species are also caught and these groups included emperors NEI, groupers and sea basses NEI, and kawakawa.
Figure B8.8 Annual nominal catches of countries in RECOFI area

The Red Sea and Gulf of Aden
Reported catches from this subarea were under 50 000 tonnes in 1950, but steadily increased sevenfold to 350 000 tonnes in 2004. However, a sharp fall was seen after that time, and only 200 000 tonnes were recorded in 2009 (Figure B8.9). The largest fishery country in this region is Yemen, which recorded its highest catch of 250 000 tonnes in 2004. Egypt ranked second with a record catch of 80 000 tonnes in 2000, followed by Saudi Arabia (40 000 tonnes in 1985) and Eritrea (12 000 tonnes in 2000). Jordan has the lowest landings in the Red Sea (about 200 tonnes in 2009).
In the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, 35 percent of landings come from ISSCAAP Group 37 (miscellaneous pelagic fishes), 19 percent from Group 33 (miscellaneous coastal fishes), 12 percent from Group 39 (marine fishes not identified), 11 percent from Group 36 (tunas, bonitos, billfishes), and 6 percent from Group 35 (herrings, sardines, anchovies).
In terms of species groups, pelagic percomorphs NEI remained as the main reported species group, indicative of the poor statistical reporting practices in FAO Statistical Subarea 51.1. This group reached a peak catch of 120 000 tonnes in 2004, but dropped back to 40 000 tonnes in 2009. The next-largest species group was equally unidentified, marine fishes NEI, which had its highest catch of about 50 000 tonnes in 1999 and declined back to 20 000 tonnes in 2009. These two categories constitute about 30 percent of the total landings for this subarea. The following eight categories in order of landings are demersal percomorphs NEI, yellowfin tuna, emperors NEI, cuttlefish and bobtail squids NEI, narrow-barred Spanish mackerel, Indian mackerel, groupers and sea basses NEI, and Penaeus shrimp NEI. Of the top ten species groups, all showed large declines except Indian mackerel. For example, Penaeus shrimps NEI landings were about 9 000 tonnes in 1998, but only about 400 tonnes in 2009.
Figure B8.9 Total annual nominal catches in Red Sea and Gulf of Aden area

The SWIOFC area (from Somali to South Africa)The SWIOFC countries had few marine fisheries in the 1950s, landing only 30 000 tonnes in total (Figure B8.10). Since then, the catches from most countries have increased steadily. The fastest growth occurred from the 1980s to the early 2000s, reaching about 400 000 tonnes in 2005. Total catch has declined by about 10 percent in the last four years.
Madagascar and Seychelles are the countries with the largest catches, landing 120 000 tonnes and 100 000 tonnes, respectively, in 2009. Their catches were substantially larger than others in the SWIOFC, with the United Republic of Tanzania (50 000 tonnes) and Somalia (27 000 tonnes) having the next largest fisheries. Fisheries development trends differ significantly between countries. They can be grouped into three categories. For some countries such as the Comoros, Madagascar, Mozambique and Somalia, catches seem to have stagnated, reflecting the absence of any catch assessment for more than a decade. Mozambique’s catch also appears to have stagnated and is in the process of review. The second group of countries have declining catches, including Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa and the United Republic of Tanzania. The final category comprise countries where the catch has fluctuated, such as in Kenya. Kenya’s catch has shown a 20-year cycle, increasing linearly over a period of 20 years and then suddenly dropping to a very low level with the lows in 1950, 1972 and 1993.
In the SWIOFC area, marine fishes not identified (ISSCAAP Group 39) account for 45 percent of total landings, Group 36 (tunas, bonitos, billfishes) 21 percent, Group 33 (miscellaneous coastal fishes) 10 percent and Group 45 (shrimps, prawns) 8 percent. The fact that 45 percent of total landings are unidentified marine fishes shows the poor quality of catch data in Area 51. There is a great need for better estimates of catch composition from the Comoros, Madagascar and Somalia.
The major ten species groups caught in Area 51 are marine fishes NEI, skipjack tuna, yellowfin tuna, emperors NEI, Penaeus shrimps NEI, natantian decapods NEI, sardinellas NEI, carangids NEI, demersal percomorphs NEI, and narrow-barred Spanish mackerel. Declines in landings have been apparent in emperors NEI, Penaeus shrimps NEI, and demersal percomorphs NEI at various times and more recently. Other species groups, such as Indian mackerel, have shown a continuing increase trend in catch, with large fluctuations for some species.
Figure B8.10 Annual nominal catches of selected countries in the SWIOFC area
Bio Assess

The assessment of fish stock status in the Western Indian Ocean (Area 51) is shown in Table D9. This assessment is complicated in that many countries continue to have difficulties in collecting accurate catch data. In some cases, countries have attempted to estimate catches by extrapolating from earlier years. When this process is continued for an extended period such as in the Comoros, Madagascar and Somalia in the SWIOFC, and the Sudan in the Red Sea, significant biases will occur. How large the bias could be in these countries is uncertain. The poor quality of catch data coupled with the poor capacity for stock assessment and fisheries management leads to the poor knowledge of stock status in this region. This in turn hinders the development of management plans for most fisheries. This is a vicious circle that must be addressed for the long-term sustainability of fisheries in the Western Indian Ocean.
Management unit: No

The capacity of data collection, stock assessment and fishery management in the Western Indian Ocean is generally poor in comparison with other regions. It also differs markedly between countries within the region. In the eastern Arabian Sea, India has estimated fish landings since the 1950s through stratified random sampling. The assessment of coastal stocks is undertaken by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute based on commercial fish catches. Assessments of oceanic stocks are made from exploratory surveys by Fishery Survey of India (Vivekanandan et al., 2010).

The RECOFI area
In the RECOFI, Kuwait has a rigorous research and monitoring programme for commercially valuable species such as shrimps. Catches of shrimps are estimated by systematic sampling of vessel landings at port. The start of the shrimp fishing closure is determined for each fishing season by monitoring the catch rates of commercial vessels (Ye, 1998). Iran (Islamic Republic of) and Oman have also progressed in the last decade in terms of fisheries data collection and stock assessment.

The SWIOFC area
In the SWIOFC, Seychelles has a stratified sampling system to collect catch data. This system has been run since the mid-1980s through a series of catch assessment surveys undertaken by the Seychelles Fishing Authority (Skewes, Ye and Burridge, 2005). Almost all countries in Area 51 have a vessel licensing system in place, and most countries also use a minimum fish size limit as a management measure. In contrast, very few fisheries have a management plan. In the SWIOFC, only about 11 percent of fisheries have management plans (FAO, 2011b).
Marine and Inland Fisheries Service, Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources Use and Conservation Division. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department “Review of the state of world marine fishery resources” FAO FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE TECHNICAL PAPER. No. 569. Rome, FAO. 2011. Click to open

The bibliographic references are available through the hyperlink displayed in "Source of Information".


Aubrey Harris from the Subregional Office for Southern Africa and Piero Mannini from the Regional Office for the Near East and North Africa critically reviewed an earlier version of this paper and made critical comments and valuable feedbacks.

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