Illegal fishing in Zanzibar still a big headache

Officials in the Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources under the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries say that though there are noticeable achievements in reducing illegal fishing done by foreign vessels, the use of undesirable methods of fishing by Zanzibaris themselves remains a challenge. 

Mr Haji Shomari, head of the patrol team for anti-illegal fishing, says the most common illegal fishing methods include the use of small mashed nets and traps, Beach seine, spear guns, chemicals from plants locally known as utupa and fishing without a license.“The problem of illegal fishing especially the use of wrong sized nets and spear guns were pointed out at Chwaka Bay a conservation area, Pete inlet in Menai conservation area, Bungi village, Bumbwini patch, and smaller islands made of stone,” Shomari  told Daily News. 

Shomari said that the destructive fishing methods are a big challenge and there is a shortage of patrol equipment.  The team lacks modern patrol boats, support from leaders and other institutions. Under funding is the biggest challenge. “The operational cost of running the patrol each day is between 200,000/= to 400,000/=. We have four boats but need five extra boats,” Shomari said. 

The director of the Department of Fisheries and Marine   Resources, Mr Mussa Aboud Jumbe, says multiple measures have been taken to fight illegal fishing including public awareness, distribution of correct fishing gear and boats to fishermen and the enforcement of the marine laws. 

Mr Jumbe says combating illegal fishing can only be achieved if leaders work together to support the programme by talking to people about the dangers of illegal fishing.“We distribute environmentally friendly fishing equipment and we have minimized harmful fishing practices in many areas. Unfortunately there are some stubborn people who refuse to change and have the backing of some leaders,” Mussa says. 

Opening a one-day stakeholders meeting under the theme “The escalating illegal fishing” the speaker of the Zanzibar House of Representatives Mr Pandu Ameir Kificho said “Some leaders who own fishing boats are reluctant to stand firm against illegal fishing. But we should all know that prohibiting illegal fishing is of national interest.” 

He added, in his speech that “the attractive price for fish and concerted fishing are to blame for harmful fishing methods.”Ms Asha Mohamed Ahmed- legal advisor of the ministry, said that some of the 34,000 fishers are ruining the environment by using illegal fishing.   

Under the fisheries Act of 2010, it is against the law to use prohibited gear. The use of illegal fishing equipment destroys coral reefs and kills immature fish.“Last year we had 16 cases of illegal fishing. Some cases were dismissed as a result of interference. We ask leaders to fully cooperate in fighting illegal fishing,” Shomari, the head of the Patrol unit said. 

Chairpersons of community fishing committees have been given mobile phones to help report any incident of illegal fishing in their areas. “It is an achievement and now fishermen are aware that we receive reports over the mobile phone. Shomari says.The Ministry has come up with a new push for the implementation and enforcement of fishing laws. The Department is lobbying for more funds and is planning for better surveillance.  

The minister of Livestock and Fisheries Mr Said Ali Mbarouk has appealed to Zanzibaris for increased co-operation in stopping illegal fishing and in stopping fishermen from abroad from fishing in Zanzibar waters. Unidentified illegal fishing vessels have been spotted over the past years. 

Despite making arrests, Zanzibar sea patrol authorities are struggling hard to keep out foreign vessels, allegedly equipped with modern technology including satellite positioning systems, and radars. The minister said “Traditionally fishing is a way of life for most people on the Isles. Agriculture is hardly practiced and fishing is the means by which people survive.” 

Minister pointed out, "Illegal fishing is a global phenomenon that affects developing countries such as Zanzibar. It is really harmful for our national economy and environment.”Zanzibar not only faces problems in its distant waters which are difficult to patrol, but also in its traditional intense competition for fish among small scale fishers resulting in declining catch, and the over-exploitation of the resources. The need for fishermen to catch fish in order to survive is compelling many small scale fishermen to resort to illegal fishing practices.


ABRAHAM John (23), a second year student at ...

Author: Issa Yussuf, Zanzibar

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