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Mauritania: Mauritania Fishing Categories




Mauritania Fishing Categories



  • Coastal Fishing

In Mauritania, no foreign ship is allow to fish in coastal waters but those registered under Mauritanian flag. To be noted that a bilateral agreement exists but with Senegal only.

Fishing areas depends upon the type of catch and the period of year. Fishing depth is about 20 m and fleets are mostly located within the 6 miles boundary. Yearly fishing catch is about 80.000 tons

Most of catch is disembarked in Nouadhibou at the artisanal port « Etablissement Portuaire de la Baie du Lévrier » providing that ships are smaller than 26 m.

Special agreements can be elaborated to let a foreign prospects go coastal fishing under fishing fleet list of a Mauritanian partner.

Broadly the Coastal fishing is allowed within the Mauritanian EEZ and more specifically:

North from Cap Timiris and West from a line drawn between the following points:

- 20°46'30 N and 017°03'00 W Cap blanc
- 19° 57'00 N and 016°45 00 W Intersection with base line
- Cap Blanc Cap Timiris with the West boundary of Banc d'Arguin National Parc (PNBA)
- 19° 21 00N et 16° 45 00 W (SW end of the PNBA area)
- South of 19° 21 00 North Cap Timiris

According to the Mauritanian law, a "coastal fishing license" allows for whatever demersal kind of catch including fish, shrimp, lobster, cephalopods, etc...

  • Pelagic Fishing

Pelagic fishing ['Pelagos'= ocean] is done by large freezer-trawlers. The target species in pelagic fishing are small pelagic fish which swim together in shoals closer to the surface and often travel over long distances in the ocean.

The shoals of pelagic fish are tracked by marine sonar equipment. From this echo, the depth and the size of the shoal can be determined. The net is towed behind the ship just below the water surface or further down, not reaching the sea bed. The debt of the net is based on the location of the targeted shoal of pelagic fish.
Pelagic Fishing method

Pelagic fishing equipment is constantly undergoing further improvements to ensure a more responsible and sustainable fishery.

To illustrate, large mesh sizes in the front part of the net have being designed specifically to prevent the catch of non desirable species and young fish.

The Pelagic fishing fleet is mostly made of large freezer-trawlers with a length ranging from 70 to 140 meters.

Today, most of the Pelagic fleet has freezing equipment on board. Older vessels have been upgraded over the years with on board freezing equipment and processing facilities, to get them to meet the newer standards.
pelagic fishing boat

To clarify the catch capacity of a freezer trawler is in fact determined by its freezing capacity; the more capacity it has the longer it can stay in the sea which means more catch thus more profits.

All fishing trawlers in West African waters have on board freezing - to maintain the freshness and quality to the EU standards. More than 60% of a freezer-trawler on board area is used for sorting, processing, freezing and storing the catch. Freezing the catch at sea allows the vessels to stay longer on the fishing grounds without sailing back. From an economic point of view - as most pelagic species are of low value and transported over long distances - the efficient handling (freezing) of the product is of paramount importance.

On board freezing equipment has a great influence on the ship operational management and fishing methods.Immediately after the catch, the whole round fish is chilled, deep-frozen (minus 23° C), packed and stored in the freezer holds of the vessel. The whole process is carried out under strict conditions of hygiene. After 3 to 6 weeks at sea, the vessels return to the port, where the cargo is transferred to reefer vessels or to the cold storage facilities on shore,; however trans shipment can also occur at high seas (open roadstead).

Commercial pelagic fishing is possible year around in Mauritania but during the so called “biological rest period” i.e. from the 1st of September to the 30th of October (arrêté N° 1366/MPEM du 20/07/2006) Some period of the year are more fruitful than others, depending upon the kind of fish and the movements of shoals.

The most profitable pelagic ships are those coming from Europe as they are designed according to modern standards and comprise an on board processing factory with a fish meal production line. Their usual GRT (Gross Rating Tonnage) is from 2500 up to 9000 and power ranges between 5000 and 7000 HP. They are all fitted with very powerful winches able to cope with heavy nets.
There are no limitations enforced, either regarding the ship Gross Rate Tonnage, the fish weight, the fish size or fish quantities. The sole limiting parameter is what the ship can actually catch.

In fact it’s not the available fish stock which is a concern but rather the on board processing capacity only. Therefore an average monthly catch of 3000 tons to 5000 tons is very much achievable, depending upon ship characteristics and time at sea.

For example, the daily freezing capacity ranges between 100 and 150 tons for European built ships, i.e. 150t x 30 = 4500 tons per month.

If you want us to compute the licensing fees and expenses for your ship please Contact us and provide us with the following data:

♦ Name of ship
♦ Flag
♦ Radio call sign
♦ IMO reference
♦ Port of registration
♦ Registration number
♦ Year of construction
♦ Type of hull
♦ Length
♦ Freeboard length
♦ Width
♦ Draft
♦ Engine power
♦ Electrical generating set power
♦ Gross to net tonnage ratio ( London 1969)
♦ Number of hold
♦ Capacity of each hold
♦ Number of freezing tunnels
♦ Daily freezing capacity
♦ Number of staff members
♦ Type of on board processing, treatment and storing means
♦ Fishing gears
♦ Year of commissioning
♦ Date of latest careening

  • Sea Bed Fishing (Demersal)

The Mauritanian sea bed fish stock is clearly over exploited as there are more than 180 Mauritanian fishing boats and an additional 150 European ones fishing in Mauritanian waters.
sea bed fishing

The main reason for this is that sea bed fishing is easy to perform: Pulling a trawl on the sea bottom is not very demanding and all fish caught can be sold for a good price, whether on the spot or in Europe . Deep-sea demersal trawling gear is large and heavy and has a very substantial impact on the seabed environment as a single deep-sea trawler may rake over 10 km² of seabed, daily. Deep-sea demersal trawling gear The general effects of trawling are well identified. They include extinction of species that form the habitat-structure, decrease in biodiversity and a large loss of long-lived organisms. The direct impacts of high seas demersal fishing vary depending on the nature of sea bed. Fauna on stable substrates (such as mud, gravel and coral) are more affected by bottom contact than those on less consolidated coarse sediment (i.e. sand). When the seabed is turned over, boulders are dislodged, large permanently attached animals are removed or damaged and clouds of mud are generated influencing areas far larger than the trawl path by itself. These impacts can reduce the available stock as well as the diversity of the benthos and totally change the species composition of benthic communities. These adverse effects can continue for long periods (>18 months) after the trawling has ceased and its visible impact is no longer evident.

The benthic zone is the lowest level of the ocean. It is inhabited by organisms that live in close relationship with (if not physically attached to) the ground, called benthos or benthic organisms.The Mauritanian authorities are therefore strictly regulating demersal fishing licenses. Today there is a wide range of towed fishing gear for catching demersal fish, just off the bottom and in mid-water. They are suitable for all sizes of vessel working alone or in pairs. Various types of seines are used for surrounding large shoals of fish in open water or small shoals near the coast, static nets that catch fish by enmeshing them, traps for lobsters and crabs, pots for cephalopods (octopus), lines set to catch fish on baited hooks and so on…

Demersal fishing gears:

The following data are abstracts elaborated from information published by the Fisheries Research Services (FRS Marine Laboratory, Aberdeen, Scotland)

Trawling is the operation of towing a net to catch fish, and the basic requirements for operating the trawl-net are sufficient power to tow the net, a means of holding the mouth of the net open while towing, a system of wires to connect the net and gear to the source of towing power and the ability to cast and haul the net. Large deep-sea trawlers provide the necessary towing power with the size of gear scaled to match available horsepower. They may be designed to tow the fishing gear either from the side or from the stern and also provide accommodation for the crew, transportation to and from the fishing grounds and a working platform for fishing operations. Winches installed on deck move and store the trawling wires or warps. Auxiliary winches, power blocks and net drums or used to handle the gear while hauling and shooting.

Purse seiners capture large aggregations of pelagic fish that shoal in mid-water or near the surface by surrounding these concentrations with a deep curtain of netting which is supported at the surface by floats. Small lead weights on the underside of the curtain ensure that the leadline quickly sinks and the net is then pursed under the shoal by heaving on a wire or purseline (a) which runs through steel rings attached to the lower edge of the net. When the gear is closed and fish can no longer escape, the netting is hauled lengthwise using a mechanised power block until the fish are packed tightly in the bunt, or last remaining section of the net to be hauled. The fish are then pumped or brailed aboard the vessel.A large purse seine can be as long as 1 kilometer and 200 meters deep. Purse seiners generally try to avoid bottom contact as the small mesh nylon netting is easily damaged.

Potting and Creeling
Creels and pots are small traps with fresh bait laid on the seabed to catch lobsters, langoustines (Nephrops norvegicus) and cephalopods. Generally, this class of vessel will haul approximately 500 to 700 creels in any one day, but may also have other creels fishing which may only be lifted three or four times per week, such as lobster or langoustine gear. A 10 m creel boat may work 700 langoustine creels but also have another 100 dedicated solely to lobster.Creel vessels in this class tend to be somewhat small and generally don’t have vivier (Fish tank) capability. If there is a requirement for in-water storage, deck tanks may be fitted. However, these vessels tend to operate on a daily basis, returning to the home port each night and storing catches in large ‘keep’ boxes on a permanent mooring to await the weekly or bi-weekly market.

Long Lines
In long line fishing, a number of strings each consisting of a main line with baited hooks on branch lines (called snoods) are connected end to end and placed on or just off the seabed with an anchor and a marker buoy at each end. Intermediate buoys are used to mark changes in the direction of the long line.

A traditional great line may consist of up to 30 long lines. Each line is typically made up of six strings of 16 hooks fastened together end to end. One vessel may use three or four great lines, with a total length of up to 20 kilometers, bearing up to 12,000 hooks.

Automatic baiting machines ensure that each hook carries fresh bait every haul and the line magazines which store line and hooks in sequence greatly reduce the possibilities of foul gear. With mechanized systems up to 48,000 hooks may be worked per day. Lines are hauled using a constant tension combination hauler which untwists and racks the line after smaller fish are removed by the hook cleaner. Larger fish may have to be gaffed aboard. As hauling proceeds the line magazines are automatically filled in sequence ready for shooting.Longliners may spend many days, even weeks, at sea on fishing banks hundreds of miles offshore with the catch preserved on ice or frozen. Enclosed deck shelters as well as the machinery described above have considerably improved working conditions for crews in what has always been an arduous and sometimes perilous fishery.


Set-nets are long walls of netting which trap fish and shrimp either by gilling or entanglement, depending on the size of mesh and the tightness of the netting. The netting is hung on ropes and the hanging ratio can range from a loose 0.3 for tangling fish to a tight 0.6 for gilling. Nets for demersal fish are 1.5 m - 6 m deep and between 50 and 200 m long.

The netting is mostly woven from fine nylon twine, which is practically invisible underwater under most conditions. Twine thickness ranges from 0.2 to 0.9 mm. Several types of twine are available and the choice is a compromise between stiffness for ease of handling and softness for catching efficiency. Multi-monofilament twine is commonly used and this consists of 8 to 12 strands of thin monofilament, about 0.15 mm thick, lightly twisted together. Plastic floats, either ring, cylindrical or egg-shaped, are attached to the headline to keep the netting upright. The nets may be used singly or a number joined in fleets with suitable moorings to hold them in place.
Larger vessels which fish offshore may have more elaborate machinery for hauling, clearing and stacking the nets and can work over 20 km of nets. The main advantage of set nets over towed nets for demersal species is that when tightly hung they are very size selective and retain few juveniles.If shot and hauled quickly the fish quality can be good. Set netters operating gillnets, during fishing operations the vessel is not attached to the gear The size of the vessels varies from open boats up to large specialized drifters, operating on the high sea.

Gillnets can be operated from decked small vessels in coastal waters and medium sized vessels fishing offshore.

In coastal waters, it is very common that gillnetting is used as a second fishing method carried out by trawlers or beam trawlers, according to fishing season and targeted species. These trawlers use strong outrigger booms to tow their fishing gear. Double-rig beam trawlers tow two trawls, one from either side.Typical deck equipment consists usually of two very heavy outriggers each towing one beam trawl by means or warps passing through blocks at the end of the outriggers.Fish Detection Equipment consists of a sonar and an echo-sounder. Fresh catch is stored in boxes or in containers chilled with ice. Larger vessels might freeze the catch. Shrimps trawlers are fit with storage equipment for hauling and stowing the net aboard.

  • Lobster Fishing

After an over exploitation phase between 1963 and 1970-1971, the stock of pink lobster of Mauritania was reconstituted little by little thanks to an important reduction which enabled a significant increase in the number of catches. Between 1963 and 1988 the stock went through three phases of exploitation, but doubling in the number of catch in 1987 and 1988 contributed again to the breaking down of stock.

Before 1990, the Mauritanian lobster was famous everywhere in Europe and a large quantity of French fishing boats (about 50) was used to come from the French Brittany coast (Camaret) to catch lobsters in Mauritanian waters.Unfortunately, when France joined the European Community it resulted in the strict enforcements of fishing quotas to be split with other European members and especially the Portuguese who had the right to fish pelagic fish using floating nets (which is now totally prohibited). This induced a severe destruction of the lobster fish stock.

Since, lobster fishing fainted, and - although the fishing stock is now back to normal standards – it is far of being over exploited.
Green lobster fishing has experienced uneven development. However, this type of fishery has been decreasing overall since the 1980s.Lobsters are located in deep ocean wells. They are fished by mean of cases and stored on board in fish tanks.The catch is then disembarked and stored alive on earth in fish tanks before being air shipped to final destination (a box filled with straw and iced water in plastic bags provides a 24 hour autonomy).The European demand is quite strong for Mauritanian pink lobster which is said to the tastiest in the world. It’s very possible to catch up to 200 kg per day. Lobster commercial fishing belong to the “special fishing” category and calls for a dedicated license. To obtain a lobster fishing license or to buy wholesale lobster go here! Lobster Fishing.

  • Black Hake Fishing

Hake are shoal fish which are found in large groups close to the sea bottom (depths of between 150 and 550 m, but sometimes as much as 1 000 m) during day time.During the night, the shoals rise to the surface looking for food and have a tendency to migrate to different depths during the course of the day.The fishery of blackhake (Merluccius) in the Mauritanian EEZ is performed by highly specialised trawlers, mostly Spanish.

Annual landings have remained stable, not exceeding 12 000 t. In the total annual catch, individuals measuring less than 30 cm do not represent more than 10 % (with the exceptions of 1992 and 1993, when the highest catch was recorded), although this percentage is higher during the cold season.The evolution of both the yields and the average sizes of the landed black hakes (which have regularly increased since the nineties) do not show an overexploited resource. The potential for hake exploitation off Mauritania has been estimated at some 133 000 tons annually. Black hake commercial fishing belong to the “special fishing” category and calls for a dedicated license.


  • Shrimp Fishing

The main fishing fleet is Spanish, with big shrimps (gambas) amounting 50% of the overall shrimps and crustaceans catch. However, recent figures show that shrimp catches represent only 16% of total catches of shrimp trawlers, when unfortunately the by-catch (fausse pêche) rate is of 85%, despite the fact that Mauritanian legislation allows a maximum by-catch of 35%.

National and European shrimp trawlers throw the vast majority of this by-catch back into the sea. In 2004, in the framework of a previous EU – Mauritania agreement, 37 of the 70 shrimp trawlers operating in Mauritanian waters were originated from the EU. This fleet caught mainly coastal and deep sea shrimp, with landings of about 4,000 tons/year. Current regulations are allowing the EU shrimp boats to use a smaller mesh size of 50 mm for their nets, compared to the one used by Mauritanian boats. Coastal shrimp was considered as being fully exploited in 2004.

In terms of sustainable development, current shrimp trawl fishing has a seroius impact on the ecosystem. In the long term, an overexploitation of crustaceans might have catastrophic repercussions on the viability of demersal fishing in Mauritania because it induces the disappearance of a major link in the trophical milieu.The new EU Mauritania agreement stipulates that the two parties will carry out technical tests in order to defining selectivity mechanisms to reduce by-catch, notably by way of selectivity grids for trawl nets and the use of selective equipment, other than trawl nets as such.

Shrimp commercial fishing belong to the “special fishing” category and calls for a dedicated license.


One of the key fishery resources in Mauritania is the cephalopod, in particular “octopus vulgaris”. Octopus resource is of a great concern to fishermen as each year as it accounts for about half of the country's fish exports. In 2004, the “Société Mauritanienne de Commercialisation du Poisson” (SMCP), the partly state owned Mauritanian fish trading company - which is responsible for marketing all frozen demersal fish and cephalopods landed by the national fleet - exported almost 40,000 tons of fish for a total value of 119 million euros. Octopus itself accounted for 51.2% of the total tonnage exported with a value of almost 98 million €uros, i.e. 82% of the total SMCP turnover.
cephalopod fishing

In the early nineties, as small-scale octopus fishing fleet was undergoing a rapid expansion, a massive influx of boats of Chinese origin became part of a fleet renewal programe. This was performed despite the warnings provided by the National Centre of Oceanographic Research and Fisheries (CNROP ) and the FAO regarding the level of stocks and the fact that they could not cope with such a pressure. Today, most of the 125 boats constituting the national Mauritanian industrial fleet are these vessels from Chinese origin.

The arrival of cephalopod trawlers from the EU between 1994 and 1996 has accelerated the effect of the stocks depletion and loss of profitability. In 2004 the fleet of European cephalopod trawlers accounted for 33% of the turnover achieved under EU Mauritania fisheries agreements (compared to 38% for small pelagic fishing and 16% for shrimp fishing).Today, the IMROP estimates that there is an excessive capacity of 31% in the octopus fishery, which is the cause of a 20% loss in production. A committee of Mauritanian scientists found that the octopus stock had declined by 31% from historical average. The Mauritanian fisheries ministry recommended opposing any deal that permitted EU nations to fish for octopus, arguing that the species needed to recover. However, the EU negotiators offered to reduce from 53 to 43 the number of boats fishing the species, but not to limit the total of octopus caught.

Under the new EU-Mauritania agreement 43 licences for octopus fishing are planned for European trawlers. A brief comparison with the previous EU Mauritania agreement, shows during the first quarter of 2005, only 46 licences for octopus fishing had been actually used out of the 55 authorized within the previous agreement, as a result of the poor level of octopus resources. There is therefore a decrease from 46 licences to 43 licences, i.e. a reduction of 6.5%, but this modest reduction is not sufficient to support a 30% decrease in the European fishing effort on octopus that is officially announced. To be noted that the 1982 “United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea” stipulates that a coastal country must only grant the surplus of its resources when not fished by its national fleet. A new rule defines the minimum weight for eviscerated (gutted) octopus fished in Mauritania as of 450 gr.CNROP is today known as IMROP – Mauritanian Institute of Oceanographic Research and Fisheries

In response to this situation, and to protect its demersal resources, the Mauritanian government has extended the offshore Exclusion Zone from 6 miles to 12, improved its surveillance capacities, and extended the no-fishing biological reproduction period from 30 to 60 days each year. For Y2007, this biological rest period starts by the 15th of September and ends on the 15th of October (arrêté N° 1880/MPEM du 08/08/06).The Mauritanian octopus is overexploited and there is no more any surplus resource to offer foreign commercial fleets. Only ships registered in Mauritania can fish cephalopods Cephalopod commercial fishing belong to the “special fishing” category and calls for a dedicated license.

  • Tuna Commercial Fishing

Tuna fishing process is of great economical interest as it allows the use of mother ships able to supply the fleet with food and meantime to collect catches in order to bring them back to the Ship Owner country. Fishing boats are most of the time at sea and very rarely come to pier (but for mechanical failures).

The following flags are present in Mauritanian waters: UE, Japan , Ghana , Senegal , Russia , Ukraine , Cabo Verde , Cyprus , St Vincent & Grenadines , Honduras , Belize , etc…

There are two type of fishing gears that can be used :

  • ·Surface long-liner & pole-and-line tuna vessels
  • ·Tuna purse net vessels

The longline used for tuna fishing is made up of units (sometimes known as "baskets"), each of which consists of a main horizontal line about 250 to 800 m long with 4 to 15 branch-lines, each with a wire leader and a hook. The depth where the hooks are set in the water column is a crucial element, this depth in which the longline is settled can be regulated mainly by modifying the intervals of the main line between float lines and partially by adjusting the length of float-line and/or the speed of shooting, to a lesser extent, by modifying the length of the branch-lines.Industrial tuna longliners are usually large vessel with length ranging between 30 and 70 m.

The basic requirements for longliners are to have adequate speed to reach far away fishing grounds, enough autonomy (fuel, water, accommodation of crew, etc.), capacity for operating in the high sea (sometimes very rough seas), facility for very efficient freezing storage (to reach very cold temperature under 45°C) so as to keep the highly valued tuna for months together, suitable deck arrangement, equipment, protection of crew from rough weather and sea conditions, machineries for shooting and hauling up longlines quickly and proper storage facilities for keeping the fishing gears and accessories.These large specialized vessels can stay away from their home ports for a year. Therefore tuna fishing campaigns last all year long as tuna fishing stock is moving along the coasts of both Mauritania and Senegal .

Therefore tuna fishing campaigns last all year long as tuna fishing stock is moving along the coasts of both Mauritania and Senegal.Tuna commercial fishing belong to the “special fishing” category and calls for a dedicated license. It is only performed under the “Free Licensing” scheme with no restriction regarding trans-shipment in open roadstead. To get a tuna fishing license or to buy Tuna wholesale please contact us!

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