Ray and shark fishing to stop in Mauritanian national park

Posted on 21 January 2004

An agreement to stop targeted fishing of sharks and rays in Banc d’Arguin National Park, Mauritania, brings hope to threatened marine species in West Africa.
Nouakchott, Mauritania – A landmark agreement reached late last year to stop targeted fishing of sharks and rays in Banc d’Arguin National Park, Mauritania, is a ray of hope for threatened marine species in West Africa. The agreement was made on 20 December 2003 between representatives of the park's local populations and management. 
Shark and ray fishing developed in Mauritania to fuel the lucrative and booming international ray- and shark-fin market in the late 1980s and 1990s. In the Far East, these fins are much prized for their culinary value. They rank among the most expensive fish products in the world and can sell for over US$500 per kilogram.

As a result, shark and ray fishing became the main fishing activity for the Imraguen, the resident populations of the Banc d’Arguin National Park, at the expense of traditional fishing of species like shade-fish and mullet. This has resulted in the overexploitation of sharks and rays, threatening their survival. 

Over the last decade, the Banc d'Arguin National Park, with support from FIBA (International Foundation for Banc d’Arguin), WWF, IUCN, and other partners, has developed three consecutive projects to study sharks fisheries, look into the possibility of converting fishermen to the fishing of other species (e.g., shade-fish, mullets), and eventually strengthen both the fishing capacity of the Imraguen and the fish resource management process by the various partners.
The work has been successful — the Imraguen are now turning again to the species they used to fish. They are also organizing themselves into cooperatives to enhance the quality of their fish products

"We are trying to achieve a sustainable management system for fisheries. The decision to stop fishing rays and sharks is a therefore a step in the right direction," said Mathieu Ducrocq, Technical Adivsor on Sustainable Fisheries at FIBA.

Dr Papa Samba Diouf, WWF’s Marine Programme Officer for West Africa, called on member states of the Sub-regional Fisheries Commission (CSRP) and the other fisheries stakeholders in West Africa to follow suit insofar as this agreement benefits both species and local populations.
Banc d'Arguin National Park was established in 1976 by the Mauritanian government. It was recognized as a wetland of international importance in 1982 (Ramsar Convention), and declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1989. Its unique environment harbours large populations of water-birds (waders, gulls, terns), fish (sharks, rays), invertebrates (crabs, shrimps), and marine mammals (dolphins, monk seals). The park spans over 180km of Mauritanian coasts with a surface area of 12,000 km2 made up marine and terrestrial areas having approximately the same size.
For further information
Mathieu Ducrocq
Technical Adivsor on Sustainable Fisheries, FIBA
Tel.:+222 529 18 09 
E-mail: fibareq@opt.mr
Lyne Larochelle
Communications Officer
WWF West Africa Programme
Tel.:+ 221 869 37 00
Imraguen fishermen on their boat, Banc d'Arguin National Park, Mauritania.
© WWF / Mark Edwards
Specialised shop selling sharks' fins, Beijing, China.
© WWF / Michel Gunther