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Zanzibar turns focus to untapped blue economy

IDEALLY, Zanzibar should have been the East and Central Africa—if not the continental hub—for fishing and fish processing.

But, unfortunately, it is not. Fisheries in Zanzibar essentially entail artisanal fishing units, mostly operating in inshore waters of Unguja and Pemba Islands.

Despite being surrounded by water, Zanzibar remains far from successfully exploiting her Godly endowed marine resources. Inadequate fishing activities and lack of fish processing plants haunt the Spice Islands. And, President Ali Mohamed Shein is not happy about that.

“It’s unfortunate and unacceptable that Zanzibar, which is surrounded by the ocean, doesn’t fish adequately. We don’t have even a single fish processing plant,” he says. Reports have it that Zanzibar marine resources have been benefiting foreigners who come and fish them clandestinely.

That is especially for tuna, which stay in the deep sea whose access is limited in the absence of modern and modern fishing gears.

But, firmly determined to develop the blue economy for the benefits of the islands’ 1.5 million population, the government has embarked on sweeping measures to accelerate the country’s economic growth through the ocean.

And, it seems, the blue economy, which involves exploitation of all marine resources, from the coast to the deep sea, is the government preferred approach. Zanzibar government has just established the Zanzibar Fishing Corporation (ZAFICO), procured new fishing boats and construction of Malindi fish landing and marketing facilities are already underway.

President Shein launched the 26bn/- construction works on Malindi fish market last weekend, underscoring the importance of intensifying the fishing sector and constructing fish processing plants in Unguja and Pemba. Upon completion, the Malindi project will create jobs for 6,000 people, with prospects of boosting productivity in the fishing sector.

Japan, through its international cooperation arm—Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)—and Zanzibar government have contributed 22.776bn/- and 3.715bn/-, respectively, to the construction works whose contract was signed on March 26, 2019 before execution started last June.

The Japanese Rinkai Nissan Construction Co. Ltd implemented project entails construction of six auctioning sites, 141 fish display shelves—76 and 65 of them static and movable, respectively—as well as 13 sites for fish processing.

The facility will also have the freezing plant capable of producing three tons of ice bars per 24 hours. The envisaged market will accommodate 24 traditional fishing vessels at a time, creating jobs for 1,400 fish porters, daily.

The market will offer services to 6,500 fish traders and boost their earnings through providing them with an opportunity to sell their catches timely, thanks to the superb infrastructure.

“The envisaged market facilities aim at facilitating fish sales at Malindi market under quality and hygienic environment as well as offering good parking environment for fishing vessels,” Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Livestock and Fisheries Mariam Juma Sadalla says of the market.

Economic and Development Officer from the Japanese Embassy in Dar es Salaam Katsutoshi Dakeda describes the project in Urban West region as a catalyst to Zanzibar’s rapid economic growth.

“Malindi market project will play a critical role in accelerating Zanzibar’s economic growth and boosting fishermen’s earnings...Japan is proud of our cordial relations with Tanzania, including Zanzibar, for over 50 years now,” says Mr Dakeda.

JICA Country Representative Matsuyama Satoru expresses optimisms over the project, saying it will help to strengthen the fishing sector in the Spice Islands. The market facilities will help towards harnessing the government-spearheaded blue economy.

Despite the recently launched new fishing boat, another vessel is coming soon and the government has allocated funds for the purchase of four new boats, President Shein has assured. Historically, Zanzibaris are fishers—and they started fishing activities before farming.

But, insists Dr Shein, “We must embrace modern fishing, which entails modern fish landing, marketing and fishing vessels.” Fishing is just one of many activities of the blue economy, which entails reliable marine transport, modern boats and empowered fishermen.

Dr Shein implores Zanzibaris to invest in fish farming, saying the government is determined to invest in improving environment for all wananchi to benefit with fish farming.

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Mmanga Mjengo Mjawiri said that the government would continue to create conducive environment for fishermen to fish profitably. He advocated for environmental conservation especially preservation of the coral reefs, which offer conducive breeding environment for fishes.

ZANZIBAR remains famous among tourists, visitors and holidaymakers ...

Author: MASATO MASATO in Zanzibar

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