Fisheries in the RSGA Region

Threats and Issues:

OVERFISHING. The status of fisheries in some nations of the Region is unknown, because of a lack of stock assessments and incomplete fisheries statistics. However, reported declines in catches and average size of fish landed are possible indicators of overfishing in certain areas. Besides finfish, catches of lobster and strombids particularly appear to be declining. Cuttlefish stocks in major fishing grounds have completely collapsed. Although in some areas shrimp catches have grown recently due to an increase in fishing efforts, in other areas there are indications of stock depletion.

To mitigate these threats, PERSGA, through its projects and awareness activities, works to remedy destructive fishing practices and over-exploitation, as well as to strengthen Management Plans, surveillance and enforcement mechanisms. It also addresses ecosystem connectivity by highlighting the importance of conserving nursery habitats, such as mangroves and seagrass beds, in order to better maintain healthy fish stocks.

COMMERCIAL FISHERIES. Commercially exploited living resources are an integral part of the marine and coastal ecosystems. The sustainable use of these resources depends on proper management of fishing activities, clear legislation and enforcement mechanisms. PERSGA highlights the need for updated field guides, adapted to address local scenarios, to be used as a tool for stock assessment and comprehensive fisheries management planning. The organisation also works to train fishermen on sustainable practice and to develop national capacity to difne management policies, review fishing methods, and assign catch quotas to user-groups.

SHRIMP AND FISH FARMING. Currently, shrimp and fish farming play a minor role in the Region, but growth is expected in the near future. PERSGA is mindful of the fact that these farms can do more harm than good is poorly planned, and thus takes actions to orchestrate well-informed decision-making and sustainable thinking into the development of future farming projects. PERSGA seeks to mitigate against the following threats in particular:

  • Destruction of coastal habitats and a decline in water and soil quality caused by fish ponds in coastal areas
  •  Modification of coastlines, irreversible conversion of coastal habitats, mangrove destruction and degraded water quality due to shrimp ponds being built in or near mangrove areas
  • Adverse affects to water quality due to chemicals, hormones and nutrients used in ponds.
  • Awareness that while shrimp farms may provide short–term profit, the permanent loss of some of the most sensitive and precious habitats that can result from poor- planning will prevent a sustainable industry over the long-term.

Standardized Survey Methods:

PERSGA recognised early-on that the lack of data on fish and invertebrate stocks would be a serious handicap in the development of any strategies for sustainable management. Working Group reports on national systems for collecting statistical data from fish catches showed that they varied considerably in scope, content and detail. PERSGA therefore prepared a set of standard data formats and methods for data collection and held a training course at the third working group meeting in Djibouti on ‘Standardisation of Data Collection Methods’. The format for the data links directly with the specialised fisheries data module of the GIS unit installed at PERSGA .

To collect the necessary data and forward it to PERSGA so that a regional picture on stocks can be built up, sixteen new data collection centres have been established to report on fish landings. These are located in the countries where data collection is the least developed: four in Djibouti, four in NE Somalia, four in NW Somalia and four in Sudan. All centres received equipment and training. Data can now flow directly from national sources to the regional LMR database at PERSGA.

Monitoring Activities:

Status of LMRs in the RSGA Region :

Fisheries specialists from the region gathered at an LMR-themed workshop in Jeddah in 2002 with updated reports on the living marine resources in their country. Based on this data and other sources, PERSGA and the World Bank developed a report entitled the ‘Status of the Living Marine Resources in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden and Their Management’ (2003). The report serves as a compilation of all regional data concerning fisheries and fisheries management, and includes comprehensive country overviews. It has been translated into Arabic with UNEP support.

View a Species List for the RSGA waters

Monitoring the Ornamental Fish Trade:

The trade in ornamental fish in the region, though economically of relatively low value compared to other fisheries, has the potential to increase and to remove particular target species from the environment. A training course was held in 2002 in Jeddah to train fisheries scientists in methods for assessing the status of ornamental fisheries, the environmental impacts of the trade and potential for sustainable development of the trade. Following the training studies were carried out in Egypt, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia and Yemen to monitor the status of the trade within the region and its impact on the environment. Studies included an analysis of the export data as well as field sampling in each country. These studies provided data that allowed some estimates to be made of the standing stocks of selected fish species that are important in the ornamental fish trade. Building on this data a set of guidelines were prepared in 2003 for a management strategy for the ornamental fish trade in the region including self-financing, monitoring, control and surveillance. Provisional quotas, based on the previous studies were prepared for each PERSGA member country.

Conservation Actions:

Shrimp and other Invertebrates:

Studies have been conducted to assess the environmental effects of bottom trawling fishing; stock levels for invertebrates particularly shrimp, cuttlefish and crabs, including the bycatch; discard portions and biodiversity indices. Studies in Saudi Arabian waters off Gizan were conducted in 2001 with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. In 2002, pilot studies were conducted in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden by the Marine Science Resources and Research Centre in Yemen , and in 2003 in the northern Red Sea by the National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries (NIOF), Egypt. By May 2003, data had been collected from the three national studies and a regional training meeting was held to enhance skills in data analysis at a meeting titled ‘Stock Assessment and Fisheries Management of Invertebrates, Impacts of Trawl Fishing in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden’. Technical reports, national management plans and a regional management plan for invertebrates have since been prepared.


In cooperation with FAO, ICLARM, ROPME and USAID an international workshop was held in 2002 in Hurghada, Egypt, entitled Environmentally Friendly Aquaculture and Fisheries Practices. It focussed on coastal zone management, the species most commonly used in the region, and environmental regulations and the FAO Code of Conduct. As a recommendation from the meeting a set of management guidelines were prepared .

RECOFI: Towards a Regional Policy Framework:

As no regional fisheries body currently exists to oversee and recommend fisheries policies, stock management or legislation. PERSGA has taken steps towards the establishment of a Regional Commission for Fisheries (RECOFI). The procedures for its establishment, and the role of PERSGA in the implementation of the Regional Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries were discussed at the Third Meeting of the Regional Fishery Bodies in Rome in 2003. In June the Ministries of Agriculture in Sudan and Saudi Arabia communicated with FAO through their permanent representatives in Rome, to push forward the legal and logistical processes required for the establishment of the Commission. The precise terms and authority of this Committee are currently under review.