The resources of small pelagics, consisting of fish species living on the surface or between the two waters (Sardine, Mackerel, Horse mackerel, Anchovies and Sardinella) represent the main fishery potential of the Moroccan EEZ. Small pelagics fisheries occupy an important place in the fisheries sector in Morocco, which is reflected in: the size and dynamism of the fishing fleet; the large quantities in the various occupations supplied by the fishery products; the number of direct and indirect jobs generated.
Small Pelagics fishing extends over the entire Moroccan, Atlantic and Mediterranean continental shelf. It is mainly operated by the national fleet from different ports in the Kingdom, as well as by a foreign fleet operating under charter or fishing agreements.
The small pelagic fishery developed along the Moroccan Mediterranean and Atlantic coast with a historic shift in the fishing zone towards the south of the Atlantic coast. After the exploitation of the northern sardine stock (Tanger-El Jadida) in the 1930s, the fishery developed further south and the port of Safi became the first sardine port in the 1970s. In 1980s, with the opening of the ports of TanTan, Laâyoune and Tarfaya, the fishery moved further south making the Sidi Ifni - Cap Boujdour zone (zone B), the main activity area of the Moroccan fishing sardine fleet .
This development was reflected, notably in the 1990s, by a change in the evolution of landings, with a decrease in sardine catches in the northern zone, in the Safi-Sidi Ifni zone (zone A ) and a continuous increase in catches of sardine at zone B. The increase in catches of sardine in zone B was accompanied by a change in the destination of production. The by-product industry absorbed much of the landings, destined, before the 1990s, mainly for canning.
In the south of Cape Boujdour (zone C), a zone historically exploited by a foreign fleet, the national small pelagic fishery began during the 1980s, by large tuna seiners and from the 1990s by coastal fleet targeting sardine.This expansion of activity in Zone C was supported by the opening of the Dakhla port in 2001 and by the arrival of modern vessels added to the traditional purse seiners and supported the development of the freezing sector. In addition, authorizations for the chartering of foreign vessels (freezer pelagic trawlers, purse seine vessels and pelagic trawlers of the RSW type) were granted, as from 1997, to the operators of the freezer sector at Dakhla and Lâayoune targeting octopus, within the framework of the aid program for the conversion of excess overcapacity in this sector and also in the framework of the development of the national small pelagic fishery in this zone. Artisanal fishing has also emerged since 2008; This fishery is practiced by boats that operate from the region's fishing grounds on mackerel, usually during periods when the octopus fishery is closed.
Available potentials offered currently for small pelagic species are accesible in the region south of Cape Bojdour and vary according to the stock. Some populations (sardinella, mackerel, horse mackerel) are part of the straddling stocks exploited in the Moroccan EEZ as well as in the EEZs of the other countries of the North-West Africa region. Sardine remains the dominant species in Morocco, while the availability of other species varies from one zone to another and from year to year.
INRH/DRH 2015 - Rapport annuel de l’Etat des stocks et des pêcheries marocaines 2015. 295 p.