Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association

Enabling Sustainable Exploitation of the Coastal Tuna Species (Kawakawa and Skipjack) in the Western Indian Ocean

A. Basic Facts
   i. Project Partners
  1. Rhodes University, Department of Ichthyology & fisheries Science, South Africa (Lead Institution)
  2. Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), Aberystwyth University, Penglais Aberrystwyth United Kingdom
  3. Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), Prospect Place, Plymouth United Kingdom
  4. Department of Animal, Aquaculture and Range Sciences, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro, Tanzania
  5. Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), Silas Road, Mombasa, Kenya
  6. University of Dar es Salaam, Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
  7. Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI), Dar es Salaam Tanzania
  8. Fisheries Research Institute (IIP) Mozambique, Mao Tse-tung Avenue, Maputo, Mozambique
   ii. Project Duration 2018-2021
   iii. Project Site(s)
   iv. Project Country Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, and Tanzania
   v. Budget USD 330 000
B. Project Objectives

The goal of the proposed project is to describe genetic diversity, population structure and connectivity of two commercially important small tuna species, Kawakawa and Skipjack, across the participating countries and relate this to key economic, biological and environmental information to inform management and development of this sector. Key objectives of the project would be to:

1. Determine genome-wide genetic diversity within populations of Kawakawa and Skipjack tunas within this part of the WIO region, and so define biological population (stock) structuring and levels of connectivity (effective migration / gene flow) across the region;
2. Investigate the influence of oceanographic factors (sea surface temperature and chlorophyll-a) on the distribution, spawning pattern, genetic structure and abundance of Kawakawa and Skipjack in the WIO region.
3. Conduct economic analysis of -Kawakawa and Skipjack tuna fisheries, for aiding resource management and optimizing societal benefit.

C. Expected Results
  • Scientific information for the effective management of Kawakawa and Skipjack populations in the WIO
  • Scientific knowledge on spatial and genetic stock structure, spawning patterns, and effective population size of Kawakawa and Skipjack tuna species in the WIO region
  • Scientific information on the migration and connectivity of Kawakawa and Skipjack tuna in the WIO region
  • Information on economic impacts of the coastal tuna fishery in the WIO region and scope for development
  • Policy Briefs
  • Scientific manuscripts
D. Project Activities
  • Genome-wide screening for discovery of suitable genetic (SNP) marker loci;
  • Genotyping of a representative range of individuals for variation at the full set of loci identified in step 1, to identify WIO-wide signals of genetic stock differences and connectivity;
  • Development of a subset of single-locus SNP markers for genotyping of larger sample sizes and further locations for fine-scale monitoring of stock structure and connectivity
  • Determination of the sex of each specimen, the total lengths (TL) in nearest centimetre, body weight (BW) and gonad weight (GW) measured to the nearest gram
  • Model and remote sensing outputs on the dynamics and seasonality of ocean circulation, primary productivity, SST and upwelling in the WIO region from a recently completed PEACC Project and from the ongoing SOLSTICE project will also be used in determining the distribution, genetic structure, spawning pattern and abundance of Kawakawa and Skipjack in the WIO region
  • Geo-refence maps on the potential breeding and fishing grounds will be drawn for both variables using the Arc Map 10.2 GIS software.
  • Shore-based catch assessment surveys (CAS)
  • Value chain analysis
E. Publications
F. Students Supported by the Project

Ms Fatuma Mzingirwa (PhD student)

G. For more information, either visit or contact:

Prof Warwick Sauer, email: w.sauer@ru.ac.za