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Double spotted queenfish
Double spotted queenfish caught in the pelagic gill-net.
Photo: Erik Olsen
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Survey of renewable marine resources in the Red Sea State

Sudan’s 700km Red Sea Coastline is dotted with spectacular coral reefs providing food, livelyhood and protection for hundreds of fish species that artisanal fishermen catch using hand-lines.

Fisheries can be improved and the yields possibly increased, but in order to improve better knowledge of the resources is necessary. Knowledge on the distribution and density of fish is lacking. Therefore a survey to map the resource base is currently ongoing along the whole coast from the border of Eritrea to Egypt. The survey is financed by Norway, organized by UNIDO, building on the CIDA funded UNIDO project «Recovery of coastal livelyhoods in the Red Sea State» and carried out by The Marine Fisheries Administration (Red Sea State) and Sudanese scientists under guidance by experts from the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research.

Fishing vessels on reef

Coral reef with local fishing vessels.

Photo: Erik Olsen

On 1st November the survey vessels left Port Sudan on the first part of the survey, heading south to survey the coast from the border of Eritrea to Port Sudan. The northern part will be covered from 15th–30th November. Two vessels take part in the survey: the M/S «Don Questo» is used for taking measurements of seawater temperature, salinity and oxygen levels, making biological measurements and sampling of the catches in addition to being used for accommodation. 

The fishing operations are carried out using a new 35’ research vessel donated to the Marine Fisheries Administration (MFA) by CIDA (UNIDO). From this smaller vessel baited traps and gill-nets are set and hauled. The MFA vessel is equipped with an echo-sounder (fish-finder) allowing us to fish at different depths and see the fish in the water column. 

We use traps as our main fishing method as they can be used in fragile environments like coral reefs without damaging the habitats. Traps also catch the fish alive- improving the quality, and are very size-selective allowing us to avoid catching juvenile fish. Testing traps as fishing gear in Sudanese waters is an important secondary objective of the project as it can show what gears may be used to improve the fisheries to increase yields and profits. Two of the Sudanese participants are local fishermen that participate both to share their local knowledge but also to allow them to gain experience from using the fishing gears and methods we use on the survey. 

Gill-nets, long-line, hand lines and beach-seines are used to complement the traps and to allow for comparison of fishing efficiency between the gears. All gear show their merits, but target different parts of the fish communities. Commercial species are caught using all gear types, although we see that catching efficiency of the traps varies with the type of bait used. In a future commercial trap fishery the bait type and set location can be optimized to maximize catches, whereas in the present scientific survey it is important to keep the methods standardized to allow comparison between the areas. 

The survey also serves as a training platform for Sudanese fisheries scientists teaching them state-of-the-art methods for survey design, biological sampling, data processing, analysis and presentation. Valuable technical skills have also been acquired, from seamanship to setting traps and using various other forms of fishing gear. 

When the Survey ends on 30th November the Sudanese and Norwegian scientists will present the preliminary results, while the full results will be presented in the survey report due in January 2013.