Safeguarding Zanzibar’s Marine Heritage: A Partnership for Conservation

By Jay Udelhoven, WildAid Marine Project Manager

In the heart of the Indian Ocean lies the enchanting archipelago of Zanzibar—a semi-autonomous island region of Tanzania. The region is home to key sea turtle nesting sites, numerous IUCN red-listed species including Indian Ocean humpback dolphins, bumphead parrotfish, and blacktip reef sharks, and some of East Africa’s most diverse coral reefs.

But behind the picturesque landscapes and crystal-clear seas lies a vital mission of marine conservation, spearheaded by WildAid’s marine program in collaboration with our local Tanzanian partner, Mwambao. Since 2018, we’ve been working hand-in-hand to assess and enhance marine fisheries law enforcement in Zanzibar. The goal? To empower local communities to protect and preserve their marine areas, ensuring the welfare of the people and the marine resources they depend on.

A boat sits on the shore of the ocean, while a brown hut can be seen in the background.

Community patrol boat at anchor in the Pemba Channel Conservation Area, Zanzibar, Tanzania.

The dedication of WildAid and Mwambao has materialized in numerous ways. Together, we’ve developed a comprehensive Marine Protection System Plan and established four community patrol teams comprising local fishermen. Three of these teams operate within the Pemba Channel Conservation Area, while the other operates in the Tumbatu Conservation Area. These community-based patrols act as the guardians of Zanzibar’s marine resources, ensuring the ecological haven is safeguarded from the threat of illegal fishing.

The mission took a significant step forward in October 2023 when a team from WildAid’s marine program, represented by Senior Law Enforcement Advisor, Bob Farrell, and Project Manager, Jay Udelhoven, visited Zanzibar. During their trip, they conducted two training sessions covering patrol tactics and enforcement ethics, which were attended by over 140 patrol team members and members of their local governing bodies. These trainings, well-received and essential to the ongoing conservation effort, involved presentations, small group breakouts, and small group report outs to the larger group. Bob and Jay also actively participated in three patrols, two with the community patrol teams and one with government rangers. The dedication and impact of these recent activities demonstrate the continued commitment of WildAid Marine and Mwambao to protect the marine resources of Zanzibar for generations to come.

Three people pose for a photo in a boat while on assignment in Zanzibar.

WildAid and local partner, Mwambao, on patrol in the Pemba Channel Conservation Area, Zanzibar, Tanzania.

The impact of this collaborative effort is tangible and attainable. With each seven-person community patrol team costing only $150, equivalent to $1,200 per month or $14,400 per year, the potential for change is within reach. By supporting WildAid and Mwambao’s vital work, you can directly contribute to the ongoing protection of Zanzibar’s marine heritage. Your generosity will help us continue to improve existing patrols and establish new ones in areas that need it the most.

Together, we can ensure that Zanzibar’s marine wonders endure as a source of inspiration and livelihood for the local communities and remain an ecological treasure for generations to come.