Marine Fishing

Indian Ocean (Pic Helen Walsh)

TWO of the biggest challenges facing Tanzania’s marine fishing are dynamite fishing and illegal fishing by foreign fleets.

Both practices are impacting the environment, reducing fish catches, destroying coral reefs and affecting coastal residents.

In the early 1990s, Irish Aid financially supported a programme for artisan fishermen in the Tanga region in northern Tanzania. Dynamite fishing and the use of small nets were two significant problems in the area.

The Tanga Coastal Zone Conservation and Development Project was a resounding success and after its completion, dynamite fishing was thought to be on the way out.

The programme sought to address declining fish stocks, deteriorating conditions of coral reefs and the continuing reduction of mangroves and coastal forests.

It supported fishermen and provided them with alternative fishing gear, training and developed alternative economic activities so that communities did not depend on fishing alone. It also supported women, who made up the majority of fish processors.

It was a very successful programme and was adopted by the World Bank and extended along the whole coastline.

Fishermen on the Indian Ocean (Pic Helen Walsh)

However, within a year of officially ending, dynamiters were back with a vengeance, invading waters and blasting fish in areas that conservation efforts had increased stocks.

The practice is widespread along the coastline, but authorities do not have the means to catch offenders. Those prosecuted are given low fines that fail to deter them from continuing dynamiting.

In March this year, two villages in Dar es Salaam’s Kigamboni suburb formed beach management units to set up a neighbourhood-watch type system whereby all residents would act as watchdogs in a bid to curb dynamite fishing.

Through the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), about ten villages along Indian Ocean in Kigamboni area have already been educated on the effects of dynamite fishing. Each fishing village is to due to form its own committee to protect their resources from dynamiting.

Some measures have already been taken to control dynamite fishing including patrols by fisheries officers and marine police but resources to fund patrols are limited and leaked intelligence about the timing of patrols has also reduced their success in apprehending offenders.

Indian Ocean (Pic Helen Walsh)

A lack of resources has also led to poor control mechanisms in monitoring illegal marine fishing. It is estimated that Tanzania loses more than $220 million a year through fish smuggling by foreign vessels. The absence of local fishery officers and on-board inspections are enabling illegal fishing and crippling the industry.

In March, members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), including Tanzania, declared they would work together to eliminate illegal, unregulated and under-reported fishing in the sub-regional states of the Indian Ocean.

The Tanzanian Minister for Livestock and Fisheries, John Magufuli said the country has failed to benefit from the industry despite the high potential in fisheries resources in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Illegalities are largely due to unscrupulous foreign fishing vessels, who fail to report their daily catches to the Fisheries Department. The practice has led to a loss of revenue for legitimate Tanzanian fishermen and associated industries such as processors, fishmongers and port authorities.

The scale of illegal fishing across Africa is very serious and is deciminating fish stocks. In a bid to control the problem in Tanzanian waters, the government has set up a Deep Sea Authority (DSA) with the power to regulate and control fishing activities in the country’s EEZ.

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