The Northern Mozambique Channel

United Nations Environment Programme ; United Nations Environment Programme Institutional authors (2012-11-27)

The shores and coastal waters of the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) are recognized globally for their biological richness, their role as corridors for migratory species, natural beauty and high ecological and socio-economic value. The region is one of the world’s less ecologically disturbed ocean areas, with some of the Indian Ocean’s most diverse coral reefs, mangrove forests and seagrass beds. The Mozambique Channel and East African coast are the prime habitat of the coelacanth, a ‘living fossil’ that illustrates the long term oceanographic stability of this region. The total area of coral reefs in the WIO is 11,060 km2 (8% of the global area), and the mangrove is 8,897 km2 (1.5% of the global area). Two countries (Madagascar and Mozambique) are among the fifteen nations sharing the most extensive mangroves in the world. The Mozambique Channel experiences a highly energetic and variable regime of meso-scale circular currents (gyres, approx. 100-300 km across) that cause water to flow in all directions – north, south, east and west – and fundamentally affect the diversity and productivity of marine ecosystems within the channel . The rich fisheries, including major prawn fisheries and a regional tuna stock, are exploited not only by domestic fishing industries but also by foreign fishing fleets - not always to the benefit of the countries of the region (roughly 20% of the world tuna catches are from the southwestern Indian Ocean). Furthermore, near-shore fish stocks support a centuries old artisanal fishing industry and significantly contribute to the livelihoods and food security of the region’s population

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