How envisioned protection measures will save Pemba Channel

TANZANIA: WHICHEVER way you look at it, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) initiating a 700m/- conservation project in Tanga to preserve Protection measures are being put in place for the Pemba Channela high biodiversity area that is believed to be a climate refuge for coral reefs and that also sustains the livelihoods of the surrounding communities.

Named the “Bahari Ni Urithi” (The Sea is Heritage), the project that is funded by Germany’s Blue Action Fund (BAF) launched in Tanga recently is now the talk of the town.

Dr Jean Mensa, Director of the WCS Marine Program, says the work in Tanga is part of a larger project to strengthen the communities and ecosystems across the Channel and to increase the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), including the Tanga Coelacanth Marine Park.

The project comes after the successful completion of another one that was supported by the MPAs authority in improving management effectiveness in Mkinga District, especially to help communities develop small-scale sustainable fisheries.

Elaborating, he emphasized that the majority of respondents in the 1,624 sq km project area (TACMP -554 sq km and Pemba East 1,070 sq km) were fishermen using shark nets and ringlets, according to the findings of a socioeconomic baseline study carried out by the WCS in villages in eastern Pemba and Tanga.

Nonetheless, the survey indicates that overfishing has caused fishermen to notice a drop in catch. In particular, Dr Mensa said that the fishermen were prepared to scale back their fishing operations in exchange for assistance in creating alternate sources of income or switching to different fishing equipment.

As mitigating measures to make up for the decrease in fishing effort in core zones and locally managed marine areas (LMMAs), he further explained that the project would aim to improve value chains through the installation of things like ice coolers, fuel-efficient stoves, and racks for sardines and seaweed to dry.

In addition, he suggested promoting the creation of notake zones and restoring habitat as ways to improve fishery sustainability.

“We need to strengthen the resilience of communities and ecosystems because climate change affects communities and ecosystems all over the world, as we can see these days with the large bleaching event happening all over Tanzania,” Dr Mensa pointed out.

The project aims to reduce dependence on fisheries by developing and strengthening alternative livelihoods such as octopus fishing, beekeeping, chicken raising, credit/ savings groups, and sponge farming, wherever possible. According to studies, the area is a hotspot for conservation, but historically, also destructive fishing methods have damaged reefs.

A study made available through the WCSNewsroom says even though warming waters may ravage the nearby reefs, this region could ultimately end up becoming a vital sanctuary where a variety of marine life, both large and small, will converge to escape the effects of climate change. Dr Mensa explains that the project would include various measures, including mangrove and seagrass restoration and seagrass and coastline protection, to achieve climate adaptation through natural solutions.

“The project targets to restore 10 ha of coral reef, restore 150 ha of mangroves, and rehabilitate 300 ha of seagrass across all MPAs,” he discloses.

The project would identify potential sites for coral reef, seagrass, and mangrove restoration with communities and MPA managers and train communities and MPA managers in coral reef, mangrove, and seagrass restoration and monitoring.

To improve MPA effectiveness, the project would provide support for ecological monitoring, community engagement, and management effectiveness, as well as demarcation, training, and equipment for Monitoring, Control, and Survey (MCS), financial sustainability, and a review of the Tanga Coelacanth Marine Park’s (TACMP) General Management Plans (GMP) and Marine Spatial Planning (MSP). Dr Johnson Mshana, WCS Tanga Coordinator, explained that the previous project involved three villages in the Mkinga district.

The villages are Moa, Mahandakini, and Ndumbani. Blue Carbon Conservation was one of the project’s focus areas. According to Dr. Mshana, it included community training on assessing the blue economy ecosystem, scientific ecological evaluation of mangrove areas, Blue Carbon trading feasibility assessment, socioeconomic surveys of the blue carbon ecosystem, and distribution and monitoring of fuel-efficient stoves for household use.

“Our work focused on saving mangrove forests in the District,” he said, adding that preserving forest areas such as the Jasini-Moa area allows villagers to participate in carbon trading.

A total of 450 fuel-efficient charcoal stoves (150 each) were distributed across the three villages. Regarding the Mkinga project’s sustainability, he mentions forming the Blue Financing Association and collaborating with the private sector and financial institutions.

“We signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Microfinance Bank (NMB) to support communities through microfinance associations. The NMB has agreed to contribute its financial resources,” Dr Mshana notes.

Other sustainability measures include building capacity among local community members, such as training 45 artisans (15 from each village) to maintain and manufacture fuel-efficient stoves.

“The project also increased village capacity for sardine value addition by providing training and drying racks. Fifteen villagers have been trained for that purpose,” he explained.

The Mkinga project further developed revenue and benefit-sharing mechanisms and strengthened government institutions and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) engagement.

Other WCS projects are currently underway in Tanga and the rest of the country. Among them is the USAIDfunded ‘Heshimu Bahari’ (Respect the Sea) Project.

Its primary goal is to facilitate the establishment of a network of Fishery Replenishment Zones across Tanzania. Other projects include Vibrant Ocean Initiative 3, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, which aims to support comanagement implementation in Boma-Mahandakini and the work in Pemba to establish a new Marine Conservation Area in Pemba East.

The Blue Carbon Accreditation project, which has multiple donors, focuses on the carbon accreditation project in Boma-Mahandakini.

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