Managing marine resources in Quirimbas National Park | WWF

Managing marine resources in Quirimbas National Park

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > Southern Africa > Mozambique

Beach on Ibo Island, one of 27 small islands in Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique.


Ibo Island is one of the more popular islands to visit within Mozambique’s protected Quirimbas Archipelago. The national park is not only intended to conserve the marine resources but to also benefit local users, particularly fishermen.

WWF and a team of scientists and local fishermen are monitoring a fishing sanctuary to assess fish populations and the effects on the local community. Research shows that the marine sanctuary areas benefit local fishermen who catch more fish in the surrounding areas, and is a source of income from tourists who can visit the sanctuary.


Cabo Delgado Province is located in the far Northeast of Mozambique. It covers some 82,625 km2 and has 425 km of coastline on the Indian Ocean. Along this coastline, the Quirimbas Archipelago stretches almost 400 km from the city of Pemba in the south to the town of Palma in the North. Eleven islands in the south and a vast expanse of mainland forest have been included in the Quirimbas National Park (QNP), giving it a total area of 750,639 ha of which 598,402 ha are terrestrial and 152,237 ha are marine and island habitats. Of the marine and island habitats, the area near the coast is 134,377 ha and the offshore seamount of the Banco São Lázaro is 17,860 ha. This area has long been recognised as an area of great scenic beauty, high biodiversity of worldwide significance, and important historical patrimony; the recommendation that the area should be declared a national park dates from 1971. The QNP was declared on June 6 2002.

QNP is unique in that it was created in response to requests from local communities and other stakeholders. Thus, the park must be recognised as a ‘bottom-up’ attempt by these parties to resolve the myriad problems that beset the Province of Cabo Delgado in general and the QNP area in particular.

The QNP area’s fisheries (inshore areas, the ones accessed by artesanal fishermen) are on the verge of collapse due to overfishing pressure, largely caused by exhaustion of fish stocks in neighbouring areas in Nampula and Tanzania, and the resultant and recent influx of migratory fishermen into the QNP area. Without the park and its plans for a sustainable management regime, fish stocks would most probably have been exhausted in the QNP area. On land, animal-human conflicts and the erosion of traditional livelihoods (the twin epidemics of Oidio anacardii in cashew and lethal yellowing in coconut, as well as exhaustion of fragile tropical soils due to overuse) have created a cycle of poverty the results of which are truly shocking. According to the Plano Estrategico de Cabo Delgado, 2000-2005, life expectancy in the province is 37.8 years, while the under-five mortality rate is 295 per thousand.

While data do not exist specifically for the QNP, the provincial economy is based on agriculture and artesanal fishing, which accounts for over 50% of the province’s output, with agriculture being by far the main contributor to the provincial GDP. On the basis of government statistical information, provincial growth in GDP has seen a recent slow down from 14.1% in 1997 to 7.4% in 2000 or from MZM 2,153 million (national currency) in 1997 to MZM 3,173 million in 2000. GDP per capita is estimated to have risen from USD 135 in 1997 to USD 141 by the year 2000, although remaining well below the absolute poverty line of USD 1 per day. Rural poverty is, however, more extreme, with most rural families having an income of less than half of this.

Agriculture occupies only 6.2% of the land. Artesanal fishing is an important activity in the region, both in terms of diet, income generation and the settlement of populations. There are about 70,000 fishermen supported by 450,000 workforce using mainly beach seining, hand lines and spear fishing, relying on non-motorised boasts for accessing marine resources.

Despite severe rural poverty, the QNP area is both beautiful and undeveloped. Approximately 55,000 people live in or around the park. Nearly all of these rely directly on the resource base for their livelihoods. Worldwide interest in the Quirimbas Archipelago represents an opportunity for their social and economic development. To date local communities have been involved in all aspects of the development of the park, from the conceptualization of the original idea through to planning, mobilization, and implementation of initial management strategies. In fact the park field staff and corps of volunteer rangers (approximately 200 volunteers to date) has been drawn entirely from local communities. These are currently involved in patrolling the park, controlling animal-human conflicts, and establishing sanctuaries (no-fishing zones) that allow for the recovery of depleted fish stocks and corals. So high has been the level of community involvement that two community leaders, Aida Safire and Augusto Assane Omar, were awarded the Warren J. Buffet Prize for African Conservation in 2003. This prize is given annually by the National Geographic Society for persons who have made outstanding contributions to conservation in Africa.

The development of the park and its local communities is regulated by the QNP General Management Plan (which was approved in December 2003, thus passing into law) and other relevant legislation, including the new Land Law of 1997, the new Forest and Wildlife Law of 1999, and national environmental and fisheries legislation. The Management Plan specifies a number of rights that local communities have, among them the following:

- The DNAC has fixed percentages of all park fees collected, to be used for the benefit of local communities as “community development funds”. This is 20% of all fees collected. This fund will be administered locally through the Park Administration in collaboration with the Community Representative Council. According to cash flow projections prepared for the park, this fund is likely to reach USD 60,000 by 2010 and USD109,000 per year by 2017 (assuming a 30% occupancy of the park, approximately the same occupancy rate as Bazaruto National Park).

- The right to negotiate binding legal agreements with incoming tourist operators within the park (for example the Quirimba community negotiated a USD 10 sanctuary fee, half for sanctuary protection and half for community development projects, with the Quilalea Island tourism project).

- The first option for employment in all tourist enterprises to be set up in the park.

- The right to decide who shall and who shall not fish within park waters.

- The right to participate in the enforcement of park and other legislation.

- The right to representation in park management bodies.

- The right to use marine resources and coastal resources within the "community use and development zones" (70% of the marine area of the park) for their own livelihoods.

- The exclusive right to harvest and sell certain natural resource products (fish and shellfish, timber, building materials, palm leaf, and all forest products).

The intent of these regulations was to give local communities both a greater voice in, and more control over, the means of earning their livelihoods. The exclusive right to natural resource products means that tourist operators within the park must arrange for local community members to supply them with these products instead of going out and harvesting for themselves, thus creating micro-enterprise opportunities for local people.


Park objectives specifically support the involvement of communities in the park. The General Management Plan states that the Park goal is “to conserve the diversity, abundance and ecological integrity of all physical and biological resources in the park area, so that they may be enjoyed and used productively by present and future generations”. This goal is supported by 6 objectives:

1. Protect, conserve, and where necessary restore the ecosystem processes and the species and genetic diversity of all terrestrial and marine resources in the park area and its area of influence.

2. Promote the economic and social well-being of the park’s ancestral inhabitants by the promotion of sustainable resource use strategies, by the development of ecologically sensitive livelihood options, and by prioritising their interests in the economic opportunities deriving from the establishment of the park.

3. Ensure that all stakeholders - including but not limited to residents, tourist operators and investors, and park management structures - share both the benefits of, and the management responsibility for, the park.

4. Protect, conserve, and rehabilitate historical monuments, ruins, and other cultural resources in the park area (including local culture and tradition).

5. Stimulate and facilitate the growth of eco-tourism in the park area, the province, and the North of Mozambique.

6. Ensure the sustainability of the park by the adoption of appropriate fundraising mechanisms, cost-effective operational systems, and the development of partnerships with other stakeholders and relevant research institutions.


The QNP’s long-term concern is both conservation of the park area as well as the "conservation" of its human inhabitants.

The park is intended to be of direct benefit to local users, who will also participate in the management of the park’s resources. To this end, harmonisation of potentially conflicting uses is a main strategy of the park, while zoning is a main tool. Three types of zones are created, allowing for a range of human uses and impacts from total protection to community development and (sustainable) use. These zones interact with each other in a synergetic way, benefiting all concerned. For example, research in neighbouring countries shows that the creation of marine sanctuary areas (no-fishing zones) actually results in increase in fish capture over a wide area (known as “spillover”), thus benefiting tourists (who can visit the sanctuary), local fishermen (who catch more fish in the surrounding areas), and the environment of the park.

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