With huge stretches of coral reefs, mangrove forests, estuaries and island archipelagos, the West Indian Ocean supports a wide diversity of life — from sea turtles and sharks to humans.
The economies of many countries in the region are also highly dependent on the marine resources of the West Indian Ocean, primarily for fishing, tourism and shipping.
Today, the rich waters of the West Indian Ocean are threatened by unsustainable and destructive fishing practices that decimate fisheries and destroy fragile coral ecosystems. The region’s coral reefs are also at risk from rising sea temperatures caused by climate change.
However, some corals seem resistant or resilient to coral bleaching, offering hope that these fragile ecosystems can be protected.
Protecting Critical Reef Habitat
From the Caribbean to the South Pacific, the Conservancy has joined with governments, communities and other conservation groups to set aside important coral reefs and fisheries in marine protected areas. These protected areas also benefit communities by replenishing depleted fisheries and protecting crucial spawning grounds.
The Mozambique coastline includes biologically rich areas with abundant and diverse coral communities that ranked high in our internal prioritization process. These corals are possibly some of the most diverse in all of Africa.
Northern Mozambique also boasts mangrove forests and rare coastal forest habitats that are essential breeding sites for five of the world’s seven marine turtle species. Possibly the world’s most important population of the coelacanth, a critically endangered prehistoric fish once thought to be extinct, survives within the area’s deep underwater canyons.
Inshore fisheries and shrimp beds provide the main source of livelihood for an estimated 500,000 local people in northern coastal Mozambique. Enhancing management of these resources will help meet urgent needs for food and financial security.
Improving Resiliency to Climate Change
The Nature Conservancy is providing climate change technical assistance to partners in Mozambique by identifying coral reef communities that are more naturally resistant to bleaching events and stresses increased by climate change.
Through the Western Indian Ocean Challenge, we are convening stakeholders along the coast of East Africa and the Indian Ocean islands who are partnering to reduce the impacts of climate change by protecting resilient marine ecosystems and promoting sustainable livelihoods.
By intentionally protecting these more resilient species, the entire reef community has an increased ability to adapt to climate change and therefore continues to support spawning grounds for a fishery that feeds thousands of artisanal fishers.