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Engaging local communities in marine conservation

DYNAMITE fishing has become a thing of the past in Zanzibar, according to Haji Shomari. “Since dynamite fishing has ended, Zanzibar has a bright future for the fishing industry,” he says.

Shomari is the head of the Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance (MCS) unit under the Zanzibar Department of Fisheries.

“We no longer receive calls from fishermen in the sea or people living close to the beaches about dynamite fishing. This indicates the end of that bad fishing method,” he told journalists recently.

Dynamite fishing is the practice of using explosives to kill fish. It is a method which has been banned for destroying the surrounding ecosystem such as coral reefs that supports the fish.

Other unwanted fishing methods banned include using small fishing nets, fish shooting, poisoning and use of traps.

Shomari told reporters that the success in controlling bad fishing methods is attributed to increasing awareness among fishermen and the public.

“The level of understanding among the people has been increased. Through their fishing committees they take responsibility to protect living organisms in the sea,” he said.

The committees patrol the sea and also use by-laws to punish people engaged in destructive methods of fishing. The control is supported by the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Governance and Shared Growth (SWIOFish) Project.

“People’s perceptions on fishing methods and environment protection have been changing gradually.

The current campaign to practice sustainable fishing is bearing fruit,” said Hashim Muumin, the SWIOFish coordinator.

He said there are still challenges facing the growth of the fishing industry but people are accepting guidelines in using the sea.

The SWIOFish project was launched to protect priority fisheries in the African region where the bad methods of fishing threaten fish production.

The six-year phase one SWIOFish project launched in 2015 is backed by different development partners under the World Bank.

The project aims to help the increasing fishermen to turn to ecotourism and seaweed farming to conserve the coastal ecosystem, protect Zanzibar’s fisheries and grow the local economy.

Muumin said that SWIOFish is aimed to improve the management effectiveness of selected priority fisheries at the regional, national and community level.

The project contributes to the World Bank Group’s corporate goals of ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity in a sustainable fashion.

Apart from Tanzania, it is also being implemented in the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, and Seychelles.

The project in Tanzania focuses on tuna, prawns, small pelagic, octopus, reef fisheries and mariculture such as seaweed, so as to strengthen the local employment on the economy of fisheries and mariculture.

Coastal communities through their Shehia (lowest level of local administrative areas) committees say the project has helped them to adopt and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Mtende Coastal Village Fishers Committee established in 2017 is an example of the beneficiaries of the SWIOFish project.

The project has transformed lives of villagers after being educated about environment conservation and octopus farming. “We are benefiting from the project. We have abandoned illegal fishing methods.

We are engaged in octopus farming to improve our lives,” said Abuu Faida Haji and Shaaban Sijaamini Khatibu, all leaders at Mtende village.

The praised the SWIOFish project for educating them on marine conservation being spearheaded by a local NGO, Mwambao Coastal Community Network (MCCN).

“Since 2017, we have increased production of octopus, making about 7m/-of which 60 percent is directed support the community while 40 percent is for the committee development,” said Khatibu.

Hidaya Mohamed, a Mtende villager, informed journalists that “We are better-off economically than before the education on marine conservation and octopus farming.”

MCCN, established in 2010, has in the past three years been helping communities in coastal areas like Mtende, Makunduchi and Unguja South to develop strong and effective local resource management systems that support livelihoods and sustain marine ecosystems.

According to MCCN official, Ali Thani, Mwambao has been working to empower local communities and enable them to learn from each other through a communitybased network spanning different coastal areas and communities.

“During the past three years, Mwambao has emerged as a leading actor in facilitating communitybased marine management in Zanzibar,” he said.

Thani said his NGO (Mwambao) has successfully piloted and expanded new approaches to community marine management in Pemba and Unguja.

SWIOFish project is supervised the Department of Fisheries under the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Livestock and Fisheries.

Other partners in the project are the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA), Deep Sea Fishing Authority (DSFA), Institute of Marine Sciences, and Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries- Mainland

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Author: DAILY NEWS Reporter

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