The other was noted much more carefully over a much larger area - Dar es Salaam and Pwani and all the nearby islands including Mbudya, between September 2009 to April 2012. There are more than 3,200 mollusk species found in the western Indian Ocean region. Since no guide book has them all and the scientific names are still changing, our identifications are approximate and tentative.
I think I collected one each of: Strawberry Top (Clanculus puniceus), Violet Snails ( Janthina janthina), Spider Conch (Lambis lambis, Sw.Nyangale), Hump-backed Conch (Strombus gibberulus, Sw. Chuwale mchanga), Mauritian conch (Strombus decorus, Sw.Chuwali), Moon Shell (Polinicus mammilla, Sw. Honga), Tiger Cowry ( Cypraea tigris), Isabella Cowry (Cypraea Isabella), Egg Cowry (Ovula ovum Sw.Yai), Partridge Tun (Tonna perdix), Tonna cepa, Murex trapa, Rock Shell (Chicoreus ramosus, Sw. Chofu), Dog Whelk (Nassarius coronatus), Tulip shell (Pleuroploca trapezium), Olive Shells (Oliva bulbosa), Mitre Shell (Mitra stictica), Vase Shells (Vasum turbinellus), Augur shell (Terebra crenulata), Textile Cone (Conus textile), Conus tessalutus, Conus magus, Scallop (Chlamys senatorius), Fluted Giant Clams (Tridacna squamosa), Red Cockle (Acrosterigma rubicundrum), and Nutmeg Shell (Triginostoma scalariformis).
These shells are all in good condition. Each of the tuns, which appear very fresh, and whose shells are relatively fragile, has one small hole in them. They were probably victims of carnivorous mollusks (such as the Murexes that pierce shells with radular teeth). This means that the ecosystem was so rich and plentiful on Mbudya it could support carnivorous mollusks, that is snails that eat other types of snails.
In my colleague’s shell notes of 2.5 years, there was nothing that I had not seen in a few hours in 1989. On the other hand, in all her many hours of studying shells in recent years, she had never seen much of what I had so casually picked up. She “hasn’t ever seen” on the beaches: strawberry tops, Isabella or egg cowries, tuns, murex, olive shells, augurs, textile cones, scallops, violet snails, fluted clams, or cockles.
This is evidence of tremendous loss. If this is what has been lost in mollusks imagine what is lost in fish, corals, sea urchins, all the richness and treasure – food and beauty and lucre – that naturally proliferates along East Africa’s shores. Some of this damage is certainly due to pollution, but much of it is due the continued shredding of the marine environment in Tanzania. Not in Kenya, not in Mozambique, Tanzania in particular is being shredded by dynamite. Hundreds of years of coral growth can be destroyed in an area of 4-5 meters with one dynamite blast.
Ecosystems that had been emitting incredible food continuously for millennium, now in the space of two decades are literally shattered. Not only that… the dynamite fishing is now spreading from Tanga south to areas where it has not been heard and seen before – sure indication that there are too few fish left near home to make it s worthwhile. The results include: fish have no place to be safe, and responsible fisherman have no food to catch.
Even hermit crabs– the very creatures that would clean the beaches with their scavenging - have nowhere to live. Sea food has become very expensive and even along the coast it is no longer readily available as protein a poor person can rely on. Tanzania’s future is being laid to waste. Mwalimu Nyerere said Tanzania’s natural resources are meant to be used in such a way that they are delivered safely to our children’s grandchildren.
In fact, when he stepped down, he left Tanzania with its very strong resource base virtually intact, and in many ways structurally improved. I want to ask him, “Why are some of your children stealing from and ruining their own grandchildren’s future?” The people involved in dynamite fishing are thieving from the future by shattering the resource base. Mwalimu would correctly call them “saboteurs” and I am quite sure he would question why they are being allowed to continue in a way that so clearly undermines, now and for the future, the wealth of the nation and the health of the citizens.
Photo is from the Chumbe Island Website. I was given permission by Sibylle Riedmuller who is in charge of Chumbe and the website to use them. Coral reefs provide shelter and food for many marine creatures. Hundreds of years of growth can be destroyed by one dynamite blast in an area of 4-5 meters.