Mozambique's fisheries are the biggest single contributor to the country's exports, earning between 40-44% of foreign exchange. The bulk of the exports - prawns and shrimps - are destined for the European market (60%), followed by Japan and South Africa. Exports earn approximately $80m a year ($86m in 1997), equivalent to between 5-7% of GDP, and this tiny sum, in global terms, shows just how small and fragile the total Mozambican economy is.
The fisheries industry may be subdivided into three sectors: industrial, semi-industrial and artisanal. The industrial fishing sector consists of companies whose ships operate on a joint venture basis with foreign partners, mainly Spanish and South African, with the entire catch destined for export.
The semi-industrial middle sector processes fish for export but also serves home needs, depending upon the type of catch. The artisanal sector gives employment to 60,000 fishermen, individual workers with their own boats, who onsell their catches to local dealers. They support the dried fisheries business which supplies the internal Mozambique market.
The national (industrial fisheries) fleet consists of about 100 vessels of which some 64 are used for prawn trawling which constitutes the most lucrative part of the trade. There are in addition about 50 smaller vessels which make up the semi-industrial sector.
The prime coastal areas for fishing, in descending order of importance, are the Sofala bank which stretches between latitudes 18 and 21 degrees south and is the principal region for prawn and shrimp fishing. This is followed by the Maputo Bay region and then Inhambane bay. The fisheries off the north coast have considerable potential but as yet have not been developed.
The industry suffers from lack of funds for the development of new harbours on the northern stretch of coast up to the Tanzanian border. It lacks skilled personnel, a proper modern infrastructure and facilities, and is constantly under pressure from the European Union to meet standards of hygiene that will qualify its catches for export.
The trawlers of the main fleet are old and need replacing or renovating while the small fishermen of the artisanal sector need better access to the country's markets. The north lacks a viable market structure altogether. Although there are two canning factories, one in Maputo and one in Beira, these are idle and at present no canning is done in Mozambique.
In June this year the...