A version of this article originally appeared on GEF:IWlearn.
From Zanzibar to Kilwa Masoko to Mafia Island, Tanzania is famous for its beautiful beaches and rich biodiversity, including coral reefs, sea turtles, dugongs and more. Yet, as elsewhere, these coastal idylls are under threat from the effects of climate change, illegal fishing, and other dangers.
In an effort to protect these paradises, Tanzania has declared 18 marine conservation (or protection) areas (MCAs or MPAs) on the mainland and an additional nine on Zanzibar. An MCA is an area of ocean or coastline that has been specially designated for protection for the benefit of nature and people. A well-managed MCA can bring significant economic, social, and environmental benefits to a country, by preventing overexploitation of fish stocks, safeguarding or creating jobs in the tourism and fisheries sectors, and halting biodiversity loss.
One such MCA is the Pemba Channel Conservation Area (PECCA), declared in 2005 and home to coral reefs (among the most diverse in East Africa), important turtle nesting grounds, seabird habitats, mangroves, and rich marine biodiversity. The PECCA MCA is jointly managed by Zanzibar’s Department of Fisheries Development (DoFD) and the community. Nevertheless, the MCA faces some key challenges, including persistent illegal and destructive fishing (and a lack of alternative livelihoods to reduce pressure on fish stocks), a lack of coordination between the public sector, businesses, and communities living near the MCA, inadequate community participation in conservation and planning initiatives, etc.
Such a holistic approach to fisheries management – i.e. improving implementation of fishery closure zones while also creating alternative employment opportunities for fishers – can help create a PECCA MCA that is sustainable and profitable for local communities in the long-term.
A community that is empowered to take on these management challenges could help ensure a better-functioning MCA. A demonstration project, led by Zanzibar’s Department of Environment, aims to help communities lead in the sustainable management of small-scale fisheries in the PECCA MCA by using an ecosystem-based management (EBM) approach. EBM is an “integrated management approach that recognizes the full array of interactions within an ecosystem, including humans, rather than considering single issues, species, or ecosystem services in isolation.”
As such, this project is addressing many of the issues that have culminated in threats to the MCA. Firstly, project proponents are developing an integrated fisheries management plan to conserve, manage, and monitor marine biodiversity. New guidelines for community fishery closure zones – i.e., areas in which fishing will be off-limits to help fish stocks naturally rebound. Meanwhile, community-led fishery patrols – who monitor whether any illegal and destructive fishing practices are ongoing, and enforcement measures strengthened.
Additionally, alternative livelihood opportunities like seaweed farming which helps reduce the number of fishers combing the MCA for fish and exerting pressure on fish stocks, have been introduced. Seaweed is a fast-growing aquaculture resource. Seaweed farming not only has the potential to be lucrative, but can also have ecological benefits, such as storing carbon and eliminating harmful nutrients from the water. The project is training the community on seaweed farming and is helping them acquire relevant, and sustainable gear. The project has also provided safety gear for the Park’s speedboat used for transit and patrol around the fishery closure zones mentioned above, with the aim of getting at least 200 households engaged in eco-tourism activities.
The project is not only helping Tanzania achieve its targets under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, “Life Under Water”, in which it committed to protecting marine and coastal ecosystems, but also help it achieve SDG Goal 2 on Zero Hunger and Goal 8 on Employment.
The initiative is co-funded by the Global Environment Facility through the Western Indian Ocean Large Marine Ecosystems Strategic Action Programme Policy Harmonization and Institutional Reforms (SAPPHIRE) Project, executed by the Nairobi Convention. The project promotes policy and institutional reform to help improve the management of the Western Indian Ocean. The demonstration project is further supported by the Partnership Project for Marine and Coastal Governance and Fisheries Management for Sustainable Blue Growth in the Western Indian Ocean, led jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Nairobi Convention.
The Convention, part of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Regional Seas programme, serves as a platform for governments, civil society and the private sector to work together for the sustainable management and use of the Western Indian Ocean’s marine and coastal environment.
For more information and updates on the project, click here.