Notes from the Field: Pemba Channel Conservation Area, September 2019

The WildAid Marine team recently wrapped up a three-week trip to Pemba Island in Tanzania’s Zanzibar Archipelago. The waters around Pemba are home to some of East Africa’s deepest and most diverse coral reefs, making it a priority conservation area for the region and the world.

In addition, Pemba’s 18,047 fishers and their families depend on thriving reefs and fisheries for their livelihoods. Unfortunately, rampant illegal fishing seriously threatens the health of fish populations and other endangered marine species. Achieving effective marine management is essential not only for the survival of marine wildlife but also for the artisanal fishing sector in Pemba, which grew 15% from 2007 to 2016.

The purpose of our trip was to begin developing a comprehensive Marine Protection System Plan for the Pemba Channel Conservation Area in conjunction with our local partners, Mwambao Coastal Community Network, the Department of Fisheries Development (DFD) and RTI as part of USAID’s Tanzania PROTECT Project. This plan will help to ensure Pemba’s marine resources are protected now and in the future.

Our strategy entails working with both the government and local communities to make thriving fisheries a reality.

First, in conjunction with Mwambao, we will employ a bottom-up strategy to build on existing community surveillance and enforcement efforts. This includes expanding local patrols via a cluster approach which utilizes one vessel for five communities. When well-trained, the local Shehia Fishing Committees (SFCs) have proven extremely effective in patrolling and managing their nearshore marine territories. In 2018, there were over 33 illegal fishing seizures carried out by eight SFCs and, during our trip, one lone SFC member reported a group of fishers using illegal beach seines in their territorial waters, which resulted in fines for the fishers the very next day.

Secondly, we will use a top-down strategy by working with DFD to carry out more cost-effective Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance (MCS) of Pemba’s territorial waters. This will entail piloting a district-level patrol in Mkoani, provision of a fuel-efficient patrol vessel, development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and formalizing collaboration with the SFCs and the Tanzanian Navy. No one agency can protect Pemba’s resources alone, so we aim to foster structured collaboration to fill gaps and focus resources on stopping the most destructive fishing practices.

Finally, in order to tie all activities together, we will be developing an island-wide outreach campaign targeting the elimination of beach seines in early 2020.