Source to Sea Programme

Bazaruto Dugong Protection Project

Project Outline

The Bazaruto Dugong Protection Project has been in operation since 2010 and, to date, we have made huge strides in conserving Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago and its elusive marine mammal flagship – the dugong. The Endangered Wildlife Trust recognises that our marine ecosystems are under threat from increasing human pressure and that it is crucial that we ensure effective protection of marine biodiversity while supporting communities that rely on these resources to manage them for long-term sustainability. Overfishing, excessive bycatch, habitat destruction and dugong deaths are some of the main impacts to marine life in this area and in order for us to achieve true sustainability, we need to institute innovative and high-impact strategies. Our initial approach was to ramp up law enforcement and compliance in the National Park and we have seen the fantastic results of strengthened park management, through reduced dugong deaths, fewer gill nets and clamping down on fishing in no-take zones.  We are now working on our long-term strategy of building key partnerships, establishing alternative livelihoods and improving fish stocks through a sustainable seafood programme. Click on this link for a video clip of our work.

The Dugong (Dugong dugon)


The Indo-Pacific Region is exceptionally rich in marine life and nowhere is this more evident than in Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago. Located in an ecologically-rich tropical zone, the diversity of closely-clustered ecosystems make this a biodiversity hotspot. This Marine Protected Area measures 1,340 km2 and includes five islands, coral reefs, mangrove forests and globally important seagrass meadows. These habitats provide refuge for 180 species of birds, 45 species of reptiles, 2 000 species of fish, endemic butterflies and suni antelope. It is also home to the Western Indian Ocean’s last viable population of dugongs (~250).  The dugong’s African range formally included the coasts of Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique, also including Madagascar and the islands of Reunion, Mayotte, the Comoros and the Seychelles. Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago is host to the last viable population of dugongs along East Africa’s coast and now this flagship species is considered to be regionally Endangered due to bycatch in illegal gill nets and habitat loss from seine netting in areas of seagrass, their principal food source. A decline in the dugong population as well as general marine biodiversity, has been flagged by conservationists (2009 and 2014 conferences) and directly impacts mainland and island communities, many of whom rely on the ocean for food security, raw materials, and income generated from tourism. The park’s five islands are home to 4 044 members of the Vahoka and MaTsonga tribes. More than 85% of these island inhabitants are directly dependant on fishing and fishery related activities as a primary livelihood. 

Map of the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park

Project Impact

This project is geared towards protecting functional marine and coastal ecosystems and species in a marine biodiversity hotspot. We are contributing towards the newly developed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a Least Developed Country (LDC) that is particularly vulnerable to climate change, natural disasters and political unrest. Below are the SDGs that this project addresses:

The specific impacts we are working towards on this project are:

  1. Improved communication and collaboration among all stakeholders within the Bazaruto Archipelago through the establishment and facilitation of the Bazaruto Conservation Forum (BCF).  The Forum will provide a platform for communication between all stakeholders in the park and ensure that information is shared regarding park management, tourism, social development and research. It will further provide a platform for partnership building amongst various communities, sectors and interest groups working in the park.
  1. Improvement of artisanal fisheries and the reduction of bycatch (including elasmobranchs, turtles, seahorses, and of course, dugongs) through monitoring and adaptive management.  A Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SSI) is being established in collaboration with the district Institute for Fisheries Research (IIP), the Inhassoro District Administrator for Economic Activities and Fisher Community Councils (CCPs). This aims to inform closed seasons and as well as to transition fishers from netting to hand-line fisheries in order to reduce the use of nets within the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park by way of market-linked incentives. Sustainable fishing guidelines will be informed by the monitoring of species diversity and abundance in the Marine Protected Area, as well as species and volumes harvested, including bycatch.
  2. A reduction in dependence on fishing as a primary livelihood through the development of a range of sustainable alternative livelihoods, based on research conducted. The results of which we envision to increase household income and resilience to climate change as well as decreasing pressure on fish stocks. We have partnered with Blue Ventures, (, an organisation that specialises in supporting coastal communities to establish dynamic and locally appropriate fisheries management strategies and governance systems that improve fisheries sustainability and climate change resilience. Phase 1 would involve the island communities only and phase 2 would seek to expand to the mainland communities.
  1. Greater awareness and understanding of the value of diverse and functional marine ecosystems that can support vibrant and thriving communities. We have developed a set of 21 marine-themed lesson plans that we will be looking to incorporate into local curriculum at Vilankulo, Inhassoro, and the island schools.  Teacher training workshops and the provision of educational materials are key components of this objective.
  1. Public health is linked to the state of the natural environment with which communities live and on which communities rely. We are collaborating with our partners – Blue Ventures, the Population Sustainability Network and the District Hospitals towards increasing the districts’ capacity to provide health services and health education, specifically in the area of family planning.


The Project has been accepted by the government of Mozambique (Support Partnership Agreement currently under renewal), the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park, the national park community associations of Kanhi Kwedhu and Thomba Yedhu, the Fisher Community Councils, as well as by the governors of the districts of Vilankulo and Inhassoro, and their Maritime and Environmental Police Departments. The local authorities and communities are at all times engaged in the research, planning and implementation of the project. The Project is guided by the communities’ local knowledge, cultural considerations, and the specific needs of each focal village.

The beneficiaries of the overall project goal are all the fisher communities and future generations in the districts of Inhassoro and Vilankulo as the existence of a well-managed Marine Protected Area ensures the sustainability of the fisheries outside the park boundaries as well as the conservation of valuable species for tourism. In this stage of the project, the direct beneficiaries are the resident Vahoka and Matswa communities of the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park. The projects initial community activities in alternative livelihoods, sustainable fishing, environmental education and health will be launched from Sitone village. We hope to expand this over time to the other six island villages and relevant aspects of the project, to the mainland.


Project Highlights to date

The project has facilitated the adoption of standard operating procedures, best practice guidelines, and conservation interventions in the national park, and as a result, compliance amongst mainland fishing communities, local island residents, tourist operators, and lodges based in the park has drastically improved. Radio communications are an essential tool for enhanced law enforcement. Thanks to funding from IUCN SOS, the project was able to purchase a full VHF radio communication system for the park. Base stations were installed at each of the park’s five outposts, two radios were installed in each of the project-sponsored patrol boats and eight handheld radios are posted with scouts around the park.
In January 2014, we welcomed Head of Law Enforcement, Tomas Manasse back to the park after he completed his third
and final year of study at the Southern African Wildlife Collage, which allowed him to attain his Advanced Certificate in Nature Conservation Management. Tomas now applies his new skills and advanced leadership to enhance law enforcement operations, and shares his expertise with fellow colleagues. Tomas’ final year was sponsored by the EWT with funds received from IUCN SOS. In 2013 and 2014, we deployed 61 joint Law Enforcement and dugong monitoring flights both inside and outside the national park, tallying 200 hours. The purpose of these flights was, primarily, to identify and record illegal fishing activities within the park, and immediately direct boat-based patrols to these sites. The secondary objective was to map current dugong sightings. A total of 1 143 adult dugongs and 142 calves were observed over the monitoring period, and this indicates growth in the population based on the adult-calf ratio.
A strong law enforcement team translates to improved conservation outputs, and minimizes illegal activities. In 2014, our two marine patrol teams, under Tomas’s strengthened guidance, covered a distance of 23 982 km with 450 patrols, confiscating 1 671 items of illegal fishing equipment and 1 382 kg of illegally harvested marine resources. We deployed several patrols outside the park’s boundaries in collaboration with the Maritime Department in order to police known poaching hot-spots, and to minimise the use of illegal fishing nets within the dugong’s range. In response to two recent dugong deaths, the project launched an immediate sensitization programme to promote the use of traditional fishing techniques that prevent dugong entanglement in nets.  Revised night-fishing regulations were also discussed with all Community Fishing Associations (CCPs) and were put into effect as of 15 April 2015.
In November 2014, we investigated the feasibility of sea cucumber aquaculture- a popular and feasible alternative livelihood that has demonstrated success in Madagascar. While the park’s water temperatures and shallow bays provide ideal conditions for this culture, its sediment proved to be lacking in the quantity of essential nutrients needed to promote rapid sea cucumber growth. The assessment was performed by Dr Thierry Lavitra from the University of Toliara (Institute of Marine Science, Madagascar), and unfortunately concluded that commercial growth of sea cucumbers in the park would not provide a sustainable alternative livelihood opportunity. Dr Lavitra’s recommendations however, indicate that both the site and environmental conditions are ideal for seaweed farming, and we are now focussing on piloting the farming of Kappaphycus alvarezii, a commercial species of red algae.

The Sitone community's initial perceptions of the seaweed farming initiative are positive and they have welcomed the EWT's strategy to develop alternative livelihood opportunities for and with their community. In a November 2015 meeting, the area chief approved the project's progress and encouraged participation by those seine net fishers who were potentially interested in trialling seaweed farming. The Chief also requested that all fishers were kept updated of the project's progress and that they are consulted and actively involved in the demarcation of seaweed farming plots.

A major step forward for sustainability of our conservation interventions within the Bazaruto Dugong Protection Project is through a potential partnership currently being negotiated between African Parks (AP) and Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC). Discussions started late last year, and in March this year, EWT facilitated the introduction of AP to ANAC. AP is a non-profit organisation that takes on direct responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks and protected areas, in partnership with governments and local communities. By adopting a business approach to conservation, AP aims to make each park sustainable in the long-term, thereby contributing to economic development and poverty alleviation.