Participatory maritime surveillance within the Banc d'Arguin National Park

Published: 04 January 2021
Last edited: 07 January 2021
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With an area of 12,000 – of which 6,300 are marine areas and 5,700 are on the continent – the Banc d'Arguin National Park (PNBA) is one of the largest national parks in Africa. It is a breeding ground for the curlew, for the maturation of the yellow mullet, and is home to many migratory birds and fish species. The park is also home to extensive intertidal and subtidal seagrass meadows. Another exceptional feature of the PNBA is the presence of the Imraguen, a population of desert fishermen. They have ancestral and exclusive rights over fishing resources as part of their traditional practices using Latin sailing boats called ‘lanches’. The importance of the PNBA in terms of biodiversity and cultural heritage requires guaranteeing its socio-ecological integrity. Aware of this situation, the PNBA managers and the Delegation for Fisheries Surveillance and Control at Sea (DSPCM) – now the Mauritanian Coast Guard (GCM) – set up a participatory maritime surveillance system in 1999.


West and Central Africa
Scale of implementation
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Open sea
Local actors
Protected and conserved areas governance
Traditional knowledge
World Heritage
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Sustainable development goals
SDG 14 – Life below water
Aichi targets
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas


Banc d'Arguin National Park, Nouadhibou, Mauritania


Several challenges are to be noted in the context of the participatory maritime surveillance set up within the PNBA:


  • The intensification of artisanal motorized fishing in Mauritania over the years (pressure external to the park).
  • The increase in illegal fishing practices within the park
  • The development of infrastructures for the processing and preservation of fishery products. Despite contributing to the socioeconomic development of the population, this also increases the fishing effort and hence the pressure over fishery resources.
  • Limitations in surveillance capacity due to outdated equipment and insufficient autonomy of vessels.
  • The economic cost of the system, particularly over the vast area of marine and coastal territory to be monitored.


  • The beneficiaries of this solution are the Imraguen community, the managers of the PNBA, as well as the scientific community involved in the conservation and sustainable management of fisheries resources along the Mauritanian coastline.

How do the building blocks interact?

The three building blocks complement each other. Blocks 1 and 3, respectively "Shared governance" and "Awareness raising and knowledge exchange activities", ensure the intangible conditions necessary for the success of this solution. Block 2 "Supporting economic activities and alternative incomes" deals with the material conditions. Ideally, these three elements should be developed in parallel. However, they can also be implemented one after the other and independently from each other.


Since its establishment in 1999, the participatory maritime surveillance and monitoring of the PNBA results in the boarding of a significant number of offending vessels each year (170 motorized pirogues and 10 lanches in 2018), as well as in the seizure of different types of prohibited fishing nets. The monitoring of the fishing effort and catches of all the sailboats has been conducted since the 2000s. These data are being processed every year by the PNBA agents in collaboration with the Mauritanian Institute of Oceanographic Research and Fisheries (IMROP), and shared annually with the population of each village within the PNBA. Although the participatory maritime surveillance system has contributed to reducing the illegal exploitation of resources and to the application of management rules, the impacts on the fish stocks are quite unknown. A stock assessment is needed to evaluate the precise impacts of the conservation and fisheries management measures over the stocks of the five groups of fish being harvested within the park.



Embarek Ould Bouhwar, born in 1950 in the park area, is the chief of the village of Agadir. He has been aware of the importance of preserving the park’s ecosystems since the 1990s, when the first surveillance mission was initiated in 1992. At the time, he used his own means (car and boats), and involved the agents of the park, who did not yet have surveillance boats. Embarek Ould Bouhwar continues today to support the PNBA's efforts for conservation and surveillance. As a resource user, he ensures compliance with the regulations in force, including co-management rules agreed upon with the local population. Based on his traditional and empirical knowledge about the PNBA's natural heritage, Embarek Ould Bouhwar also carries out activities to raise awareness among the Imraguen population about the important ecological and socio-economic role of the PNBA.

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ouldyarba_39489's picture

Lemhaba Ould Yarba Parc National du Banc d'Arguin (PNBA)