TZ chooses sustainable ocean planning as key driver of its blue economy

TANZANIA is renowned for its attractive coastal and marine environments, with their rich biodiversity and resources.

These coastal ecosystems interact and sustain diverse marine life, which is an important source of sustenance for neighboring communities and source of tourism revenue for the nation. Signs of environmental degradation, as well as decline in natural resources and biodiversity, are getting noticeable.

This is evidenced by declining fish yields, deteriorating conditions of coral reefs, and gradual reduction in mangroves and coastal forests. This degradation is attributed to unsustainable use of coastal resources as well as pressure from a growing population.

Unsustainable and poor management of resources is the top issue impacting coastal ecosystems. Lack of planning on available resources for use is the second contributor to mismanagement of resources.

As a means of conserving these coastal resources, the Office of the Vice-President of the United Republic of Tanzania and the Ministry of Blue Economy and Fisheries of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), with financial support from the German Government through its International Climate Initiative (IKI), are participating in a project entitled “Strengthening the Blue Economy of the Western Indian Ocean Through Integration of Ecosystem Services and Effective Biodiversity Conservation”.

The project aims to promote and strengthen the protection and resilience of natural marine resources in the Western Indian Ocean, and to strengthen the blue economy. One of the key project’s outcomes was a feasibility study report that combines a scoping study on the status of Marine Spatial Planning in Tanzania and an analysis of existing policy and legal framework for such a plan.

The resulting study report was presented at a two-day validation workshop attended by diverse group of stakeholders ranging from ocean users, to representatives of the Blue Economy Ministry, government technical agency staff, Blue Economy development partners, and local and international non-governmental organisations at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre.

One of the fundamental steps taken by the country is focusing on Marine Spatial Planning as a driver of the country’s sustainable blue economy agenda. It is a practical way to establish a rational and integrated organisation of the marine space, where different uses are addressed to minimise and manage impacts on the system.

In developing a sustainable blue economy, the increasing demand for marine space, along with the multiple pressures on marine and coastal resources, requires an integrated approach for utilisation and management of ocean space.

Marine Spatial Planning provides such a vehicle, by both protecting the most vulnerable and critical habitat within marine protected areas and other tools, and by managing commercial activities beyond those core protected areas in a way that allows for sustainable use of resources.

Through planning and via improved fisheries management, coastal and offshore fisheries will be sustainable and critical ecosystems, such as coral reefs, mangroves and sea grasses, will be better protected, reducing the rate of degradation of these habitats and resources, mitigating climate change, enhancing local food security and sequestering carbon.

The study’s findings indicated that several sectoral policies and existing legislation are relevant to the management of marine and coastal resources in Tanzania (including land, fisheries, environment, forestry, tourism, oil and mining, among others).

It also highlighted need for an integrated and participatory resource management approach to resolve conflicts that arise amongst stakeholders to be able to effectively take advantage of development opportunities.

Tanzania is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, and one of the top three growth performers in East Africa. Much of its economy relies on the health of its natural ecosystems.

It is paramount therefore that these natural resources/ecosystems are managed sustainably and in a coordinated fashion. The country is in the process of developing a comprehensive Blue Economy Policy that embraces a full-scale Marine Spatial Planning, for the government to jointly manage a range of activities in their respective sectoral jurisdictions (including environment, fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, maritime transport, energy, oil and gas, among others) in its Exclusive Economic Zone that encompasses both Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar.

Priorities for development of the blue economy for both Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar have been identified. These include marine capture fisheries and aquaculture including seaweed cultivation, ports and shipping, offshore petroleum exploration and production, coastal and marine tourism, subsea cables – both electric transmission and telecommunications and coastal salt production.

Priorities afforded to each may differ between Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar.

• Lucy Magembe is the Country Director, Tanzania at The Nature Conservancy.

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