Mozambique: Fisheries Minister Defends Closed Season

Maputo — The Mozambican Ministry of the Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries hopes to increase the amount of fisheries produce caught in 2020 to over 461,000 tonnes, which would be an increase of almost ten per cent on the 420,000 tonnes caught last year.

The target was announced by the Minister, Augusta Maita, in Maputo on Wednesday, at a ceremony launching the 2020 fishing campaign for surface water prawns and mangrove crabs, after the end of the four month closed season (December to March) for these two species.

Maita said that, although closed seasons have been observed since the 1990s, some fishing communities still view the closed season as a form of punishment, when in reality it is a necessary management mechanism, to ensure that fishing can continue into the future.

The closed season, she added, is of great importance for managing fisheries from both the biological and economic points of view. If fishermen violated the closed season, they would catch juvenile prawns and crabs. Not only were these of low commercial value, but removing them from the sea would threaten the reproduction of the species.

The individual crabs or prawns must be allowed to grow, said Maita, so that they are of a good size and weight when they are caught, and the fishermen will thus earn more from them.

The closed season is complemented by inspection measures, leading to the seizure of fish and shellfish caught out of season. In the last closed season, Maita said, fisheries inspectors seized over 1.14 tonnes of prawns, 3.6 tonnes of crabs, and 42.7 tonnes of assorted fish. 113 fishermen guilty of these offences received notices to pay fines totalling over four millon meticais (about 60,000 US dollars). To date, only about 25 per cent of this has been collected.

Maita said that fisheries inspection counts on the support of the Coastal, Lake and River Police, and the Natural Resources and Environment Protection Police. They had visited 235 fishing centres, and had inspected 4,438 boats and 4,817 items of fishing gear. They had seized and destroyed 949 damaging items of fishing gear.

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