Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association

A socio-ecological assessment of fisheries in three estuarine systems of the SW Indian Ocean – identifying essential links for improved governance

Project Objectives

i) Develop a common understanding of estuarine ecology and biophysical variability of three estuarine systems typical of the WIO

ii) Identify natural resource use by communities that border on these estuaries, and the socio-ecological processes and feedback systems that have developed over time, with a focus on fisheries

iii) Develop decision-making tools that will allow for a better integration of resource use and management by public authorities

iv) Strengthen regional collaboration in the WIO among scientists and research institutes faced with similar challenges of resource assessment and provision of management advice.


The project will rely, as far as possible, on existing long-term data collected by partner research institutes and on remote sensing and satellite data obtainable from open internet sources (i.e. NOAA, NASA, SA Weather bureau).  This strategy is expected to provide the bulk of information to describe the underlying variables affecting socio-ecological systems (i.e. precipitation; run-off; temperature; productivity; seasonality; land-use surrounding estuaries). We will rely on historical fishing effort and landings data to construct longer term trends. Where data are unavailable, or need to be augmented to fill specific gaps, field sampling will be undertaken. Short field trips to ground-truth existing data will be undertaken, as well as limited field sampling to ascertain gear selectivity, and species and size composition of landings. Field sampling will be undertaken by partner research institutes in each country to minimize costs of travel.

Study sites

i) Rio dos Bons Sinais (Mozambique)

ii) Rufiji River delta (Tanzania)

iii) Tana Estuarine System (Kenya

Expected Results
Basic Facts

Duration: 24 months (July 2016 – June 2018)
Project Reference:
Budget: US$ 250 000
WIOMSA Contribution: US$ 150 000
Project Coordinator: Johan Groeneveld

Project Partners:

Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI);
Norwegian College of Fisheries Science, University of Tromso
Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI);
School of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Eduardo Mondlane University;
Department of Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries, University of Dar es Salaam;
Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI)

Lead Institution: Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI)
Year of Approval: 2016
Project Country: Comoros, South Africa, Mayotte, and Somalia
Investigators: Johan Groeneveld, Fiona Mackay, Jorge Santos, Baraka Kuguru, Antonio Hoguane, Paul Onyango, and Pascal Thoya
Study Sites:
Project Activities:
  • Use a generic methodology to describe the 3 estuaries, characteristic habitats and ecology in the context of biophysical variability (seasonal, interannual), and related to surrounding land use
  • Use existing fisheries data and limited field samples to describe fisheries active in each estuary, based on gears used, fishing strategy, numbers of fishers and seasonal fluctuations, landings, species and size composition
  • Assess whether fisheries are selective for specific species / size classes, or balanced across the trophic pyramid, and the likely ecological implications in each estuary (ecological modelling)
  • Undertake stakeholder meetings to refine the understanding of resource use decisions, and construct cognitive maps of linkages and feedback mechanisms inherent in the socio-ecological systems
  • Assess the resilience and adaptive capacity of the socio-ecological systems to social and environmental pressures that act over seasonal, yearly and longer term time scales, using models to test various scenarios.
  • Compare the socio-ecological systems and their resilience over time at a regional level, using information from 3 estuaries located in Tanzania, Mozambique and Kenya
  • Assess whether existing fisheries governance strategies are congruent with the socio-ecological systems in the 3 estuaries
  • Develop a management tool (technique) that can be used to predict the effects of a change in governance strategies, societal flux or climate perturbations on socio-ecological systems.
Students Supported by the Project and Titles of their Projects
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