Nov 14

Last week, the Government of Mozambique announced the creation of the biggest Marine Protected Area in Africa, covering 10,411 square kilometres of coastal marine waters.

Green turtle image

Green turtles are among the five species of marine turtle found off Mozambique's coast

Primeiras and Segundas Archipelago

Located in the northern part of Mozambique, off the coasts of the Zambezia and Nampula provinces, the area will be known as the Primeiras and Segundas Archipelago, which literally means ‘first’ and ‘second’ archipelago. The newly protected marine zone encompasses ten islands as well as rich coral reefs, seagrass ecosystems and mangrove forests, and it is the second major conservation area in the country to be declared within the last two years.

The Primeiras and Segundas Archipelago is home to five of the world’s seven marine turtle species, and benefits from cold, nutrient-rich upwelling, making its robust and diverse coral reefs some of the most important and globally productive on the planet. In addition, the area provides essential breeding grounds for a variety of seabirds, as well as for the strange-looking dugong, a unique species of marine mammal classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Sadly, unauthorised tourism and overfishing, by both commercial and artisanal fisheries, have negatively affected the marine life off the coast of Mozambique, and WWF has worked tirelessly for years to secure this particular segment as a protected area.

The stunning reefs, islands and marine life will now be protected. We won a victory today with the declaration of Primeiras and Segundas – a great triumph for protecting the world’s marine environment,” said Caroline Simmonds, Deputy Director for WWF-US’s Coastal East Africa Program.

Dugong image

The enigmatic dugong breeds in Mozambique's coastal waters

Economic incentive

As well as being a place of natural beauty, the Primeiras and Segundas Archipelago is also an area of great economic and social importance, with Mozambique’s coast providing food for hundreds of thousands of people. With artisanal, semi-industrial and industrial fishermen all carrying out fishery activities within the same area, fish stocks have become overexploited, and some are even verging on the brink of collapse.

While the Mozambique government is still working on a management plan for the region, which will include the regulation of tourism, it has stated that new protection measures in the Primeiras and Segundas Archipelago would include safeguarding key fish nesting sites, to allow population numbers to return to sustainable levels.

Protecting the rich natural resources of this magnificent area will make a major contribution to the long term food security and livelihoods of the people of the region,” said John Tanzer, Director of WWF’s Global Marine Programme. “It is also a significant contribution by Mozambique to safeguarding the future of the world’s marine environment more generally and deserves recognition and congratulations to all concerned who worked together to make it possible.”

This is a great response to the appeal by local communities to help them protect their resources,” added Florêncio Marerua, WWF-Mozambique’s Country Director. “It is particularly exciting that both the government authorities and local communities recognise the benefits of conserving these resources.”

Green turtle hatchling image

Green turtle hatchlings heading towards the sea

CARE-WWF Alliance projects

As part of the push towards achieving enhanced livelihoods through the sustainable management of both terrestrial and marine resources in Mozambique, the Coastal Communities initiative of the CARE-WWF Alliance has implemented several projects. The alliance aims to address the root causes of poverty and environmental degradation, and is working with communities and various partners to instigate change and secure a healthy marine ecosystem along the country’s coast.

Since 2008, the CARE-WWF Alliance has engaged with more than 10,000 coastal households in the Primeiras and Segundas region. It has already made progress in introducing new conservation agriculture techniques to increase productivity and ecosystem services, and has helped develop marine sanctuaries to support and facilitate rebounding fish stocks. WWF and CARE are also working together with ocean community guards to rescue green turtles and build awareness about these wonderful marine creatures.


Read more on this story at – Mozambique creates Africa’s biggest marine protected area.

Find out more about the world’s protected areas.

Discover species found in Mozambique on ARKive.


Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author