Twenty years of monitoring reveal overfishing of bony fish stocks in the coastal national park Banc d’Arguin, in Mauritania

Sidi Yahya Cheikhna Lemrabott*, El-Hacen Mohamed El-Hacen, Theunis Piersma, Amadou Abdarahmane Sall, Ebaye Sidina, Lemhaba Yarba Ahmed Mahmoud, Han Olff, Anieke van Leeuwen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Along Africa’s western coast, many local communities rely on the ocean for their livelihood. Over the last decades, introductions of new fishing techniques along with globalizing trade have strongly changed local fishing practices. The Parc National du Banc d’Arguin (PNBA) in Mauritania had for centuries been subjected to an artisanal, low-impact, fishery. This fishing was exclusively oriented towards migratory bony fish species, mullet (Mugil cephalus) and meagre (Argyrosomus regius). Since the 1980s, these species have been replaced by illegal catches of internationally traded elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) and by non-migratory and relict species (resident) such as tilapias (Sarotherodon melanotheron) and catfishes (Arius sp.). To date, most monitoring and management efforts have been dedicated to evaluating changes in elasmobranch populations and less focus has been on bony fish species. Data from a fishery monitoring programme are used to analyse the trends in effort, catch and catch per unit of effort of bony fish species by fitting non-parametric generalized additive models to capture changes in the fish community over the last 20 years. Mullet and meagre became overfished early on, and the contribution of resident species (tilapias and catfishes) increased in the catches. Together with a pattern of increased effort on the traditionally targeted species, such a change in the catch could reflect a change in the fish community. These results call for the implementation of sustainable fishing practices within PNBA. We propose the need to implement closures of fisheries during the species’ breeding periods as well as the use of biological reference points such as the size at first capture and maximum sustainable yield targets for resident species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)833-844
Number of pages12
JournalAquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2023


  • fishery observers
  • Imraguen
  • overfishing
  • subsistence fishing
  • teleosts
  • West Africa

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