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Mozambique to build up its own tuna fleet

10 November 2013

Various press sources announced that Mozambique has ordered 30 vessels from a French shipyard: 24 fishing vessels – a mixture of trawlers and longliners – and six patrol boats, costing between €200 and 300 million. The finance minister, Manuel Chang, insisted that the purchase of the ships is not dependent on funds from the state budget. The money will come from a US$500 million bond issued by a new Mozambican company, EMATUM. Although technically, EMATUM is a private company, its three shareholders are state bodies.

Sr Apolinario Panguene, the chair for the Mozambican Institute for the Management of State Holdings (IGEPE), one of aforementioned shareholders, advised that an economic viability study had been undertaken before the order was placed, indicating that such a tuna fishing fleet could be profitable. He added that the study could be made available to the public.

He underlined that the patrol boats are part of an order to provide security for the investment made in the tuna fleet. It is expected that both fishing and patrol vessels will be delivered in 2016. 

In its ‘tuna fleet development plan’, submitted to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) in early 2013, Mozambique already highlighted that: “In recent years there has been a growing concern that the full benefits of this fishery may have eluded Mozambique authorities due to IUU fishing and under-reporting of catches from its fisheries waters. Mozambique has therefore decided that it will directly participate in this fishery in its own waters and in the IOTC area of competence.”

Mozambique noted that each year the country allocated 130 tuna licences for the foreign tuna industry. The first step in Mozambique’s tuna strategy is to replace foreign tuna fishing vessels with vessels “fishing directly for Mozambique, either under charter or reflagged”. To “assist its fleet at sea”, Mozambique also announced that it may acquire one or two carrier vessels – presumably for transhipping tuna catches.

Another aspect of Mozambique strategy is that it will demand tuna vessels operating in domestic waters to unload all their catch in local ports.

Editorial comment

Increasing local benefits derived from migratory tuna resources are a challenge for many ACP countries. Developing local fleets’ capacity and promoting local landings – not only a source of local jobs, but also a mean of better controlling catches – are strategies put in place by ACP countries to reach that goal. However, long-term benefits can only be achieved if the resource base remains healthy and is not submitted to over-exploitation. In its ‘fleet development plan’, Mozambique suggested that developing its own fishing capacity was going to be achieved mainly through reflagging and chartering foreign vessels already active in the fishery – as it is generally understood that such operations do not change the overall fishing capacity. On the contrary, the building of a whole new tuna fleet may result in an increase of tuna fishing capacity in the region, and it will be important to analyse what impacts this increased capacity will have on the health of tuna stocks and, ultimately, on long-term benefits for Mozambique and other Indian Ocean countries. The use of carrier vessels used for sea transhipments is recognised as an important source of IUU fishing operations, and this may undermine the considerable efforts made by Mozambique in fighting IUU fishing, such as the proposed building of several patrol vessels.


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