The Mozambique Channel

March 30, 2020 | Zoe Whittall

At BCSS, we are strategically positioned in the first marine park in Mozambique and located on one of the most marine bio-diverse channels in the world.

The Bazaruto Archipelago was established as the first marine park in Mozambique in 1970. Now, the area is the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park (BANP). Bordering the park is the Mozambique Channel, a deep water channel which stretches for 1000 miles between Mozambique and Madagascar, varying between 300 – 600 miles in width. 

Being located on both a national park and the Mozambique Channel is a unique advantage for our marine research, giving us access simultaneously to the marine protected areas of the BANP and the extreme biodiversity of the channel. On Benguerra Island, we have a variety of terrestrial and marine ecosystems and species, with a range of antelopes and small mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and over 186 bird species. The coastal waters of the Indian Ocean are rich with marine life, from the rarely spotted dugong, to sea turtles, to shoals of tuna, to bull, hammerhead, and tiger sharks. This provides us with an unprecedented chance to set up the first permanent, multi-times series ocean observatory in Africa. 

A Sea Turtle seen at Paradise Island.

The Mozambique Channel flows over the continental shelf from Maputo almost all the way to Cape Agulhas, in South Africa’s Western Cape. It passes through a variety of archipelagos, including the Comoro Archipelago in the north, the Bassas da India islands, and the Bazaruto Archipelago. As it passes over the continental shelf and is a deep water channel, the range of marine life there is extraordinary. The channel is a key breeding ground for a variety of species, as well as a major corridor for migratory species such as sharks and tuna, which are essential to our study on migratory pelagic animals. As such, we see a multitude of indicator species passing through and living in the Bazaruto Archipelago, which is vital to examining the overall condition of the ecosystem. Sharks, tuna, sea turtles, dugongs, dolphins, a multitude of reef fish, and, further south, mega-fauna such as whale sharks and manta rays, all thrive in the warm waters off the channel. 

A Whale Shark spotted south of BCSS.

The Mozambique Channel is also home to the second largest diversity of hard coral in the world, the first being the Coral Triangle in Southeast Asia. With over 400 species of hard coral, the Mozambique Channel is a treasure trove for ocean studies. It is highly productive and a good indicator of general ocean health.  

Two Mile Reef coral.

While this extreme biodiversity is a draw for marine life and researchers, it is also an economic advantage. Tourists come from around the globe to see the exceptional coral reefs and marine animals, with diving, snorkeling, and island cruises being the most popular activities in the area for visitors. Further, ocean trading is substantial in the area. The channel receives all of Madagascar’s major rivers and passes through the Majunga and Tuléar ports. On the Mozambique coast, it passes the mouth of the Zambezi River as well as the bustling ports of Maputo, Beira, and Mocambique. The coastal communities depend on the marine and shoreline resources for an array of activities such as subsistence and professional fishing, jobs through tourism, and more. Moreover, the channel sits on a large undersea gas reserve, and funds about $2 billion in tuna fishing per annum. This high level of economic value, which is just recently coming into global view, makes it essential that the areas surrounding the channel are sustainably sourced, developed, and monitored, which is one of the reasons why it is so important to conduct marine research in the area. 

A fisherman of Benguerra Island.

Our location on Benguerra Island puts us in an ideal place to develop the first permanent multi time series ocean observatory in Africa. The observatory will be essential in conducting and producing research to share among the scientific community to aid in ensuring development in the area is ocean based and sustainable.

Keep up with our progress by following our Instagram and Facebook at @bcssmz, or see our website at bcssmz.org.