The Moroccan shrimp fishery is composite and relatively old, it includes an offshore and coastal fishing activities that have been practiced for decades. If the first fleet is specialized, the second is characterized by a wide variety of professions (versatility of units) which results in a great heterogeneity of logical operating systems.

The current competition between the two offshore and coastal segments constitutes a constraint for scientific monitoring and a major challenge for the management of this fishery. Such challenges are further complicated in the context of shrimp, short-lived species, whose dynamics in response to fishing and environmental variability is still poorly understood.

                                               

This fishery therefore has several advantages both economically by being a source of foreign exchange and socially by the labor it generates. It is practiced by 590 active coastal trawlers targeting demersal species and 59 freezer shrimp trawlers. About 7300 tons of shrimp are caught by coastal and offshore trawlers, worth of 690000 MDH in 2015.

However, shrimp fishing in Moroccan areas confronts several challenges and issues related to the nature of the resource itself and the context of exploitation. Thus, adequate scientific monitoring and appropriate adaptive management alone guarantee the sustainability of these short-lived resources.  

 

The exploitation of shrimps and in particular that of the deep-sea pink shrimp by the Moroccan fleets developed from the 1980s. This species (Parapenaeus longirostris) is a crustacean which belongs to the order of the Natantia Decapods and to the family of Peneidae. Its geographical distribution is quite wide. It is found in the eastern Atlantic, from Angola to Portugal and in the western Atlantic, from the Guyanas to Massachusetts as it is found throughout the Mediterranean Basin (Holthuis, 1987).

In Morocco, it is found in abundance in the continental and the Atlantic slope, from Cap Spartel in the North to Lagouira in the South and in the Moroccan Mediterranean from Ceuta to Saidia. This deep species lives on the muddy or sandy bottom. Its bathymetric distribution is wide, from 20 to 700 m and generally from 100 to 400 m deep (Heldt, 1954, Holthuis, 1987, Ardizzone et al, 1990).

 In addition to pink shrimp, other shrimps are commercially important, these are the three species of blue and red shrimp, giant red shrimp and scarlet shrimp (Aristeus antennatus, Plesiopenaeus edwardsianus, Aristaeomorpha folicea) and caramote prawn (Penaeus kerathurus). Other shrimp, of less importance, are also caught throughout the Moroccan coasts, they are mainly the megalops shrimp (Penaeopsis serrata), the gray shrimp (Crangon crangon), the golden shrimp (Plesionika martia) , arrow shrimp (Plesionika heterocarpus) and narwhal shrimp (Parapandalus narval). 

Shrimp harvesting is directed at the deep-sea and coastal freezer segments. In the case of multi-species coastal trawl fisheries, shrimp fishing is carried out simultaneously with other groups of fish. 

These different shrimp fishing segments are differentiated by their technical characteristics (design and mode of conservation) and socio-economic (level of injected investments and jobs generated) and their strategies are linked to the dynamics of resources and markets.

Regarding the gear used for shrimp fishing, they concern a specialized trawl of the Spanish type, two twins consisting of two trawls for the case of the offshore shrimp freezer fishery. For the inshore fishery, the trawl used is the one common in this fleet which is atomic type with double panel. 

The areas of activity of the fleets operating in the shrimp fishery depend on the type of fishing segment and the fishing strategies. Deep-sea freezer shrimp have a very wide range of activity and their areas of activity are essentially between Larache and El Jadida and between Essaouira and Sidi Ifni at depths ranging from 100 to more than 1000 meters. Note that given their relatively high autonomy at sea, some fishing units extend their activity to the southern area of Cape Boujdor, where apparently, the royal shrimp is targeted. Coastal freezers operate from the coast to the great depths and generally frequent the same areas as the deep freezers, the units belonging to this category have been assimilated to the deep-sea shrimp fleet from the year 2011.

Through the VMS data, freezer shrimp trawlers have two main areas of activity: at the level of the zone between Tangier and Casablanca beyond 10 nautical miles at depths beyond 100 m and at the offshore of the area between Essaouira and Agadir. It should be noted that some fishing units frequent the area south of Sidi Ifni on great depths in search of the royal shrimp.

As for the coastal trawlers landing the shrimp, they operate both at the Atlantic and the Mediterranean between Saadia and Boujdor and close to their home ports. These fishing units generally frequent the continental shelf along Moroccan coasts, on muddy bottoms, at depths that can reach up to 500m in areas of abundance of shrimp and other demersal fish species beyond 3 nautical miles from the coast.

Like the freezer shrimp fishery, two large areas of prawn fishing areas have been detected, namely the area from Assilah to El Jadida and the Essaouira-Sidi Ifni zone.

The shrimp fishery and mainly that of the pink shrimp (P. longirostris) is only carried out by trawlers. The effort of the inshore fishing fleet in the Atlantic zone, expressed in days of shrimp fishing, is characterized by a significant increase observed from 2000 to 2007 when this fleet exerted an effort of 57900 days of fishing. Since this year, the effort of this fishing segment has been maintained around 50,000 fishing days until the year 2011. Since 2012, there has been a significant reduction in fishing effort, which only represented 35000 fishing days in 2013. In 2014, the effort in this segment increased, reaching 37,700 FD. This effort decreased by 10% in 2015 (Figure.27). The decrease in this effort is an indicator of prawn rarity.

The fishing effort of coastal trawlers fishing for prawn at the Mediterranean remained relatively stable during the period 2003-2012 before dropping considerably and stabilizing around 5800 df from 2014.

As for, the evolution of the fishing effort of shrimp freezers; it suffered a significant decrease from 2009 due mainly to the significant decrease in the number of active vessels (20%) in 2010 and the stagnation period observed with the application of the management plan for the shrimp fishery. The fishing effort oscillates around 9000 df. For freezer coastal trawlers, fishing effort follows the same trend as freezer shrimp trawlers.

Extract from the annual report of the State of the stocks and the Moroccan fisheries 2015. 295 p