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Building on success: fisheries management in southern Tanzania


Whether it’s to provide fish for dinner, beaches to relax on, waves to surf and sail, the oceans and their vast array of riches are important to us all.

David Tanner and BMU Executive members, Temeke district, Tanzania. Copright: Keith Hempshall / WWF-UKDavid Tanner (top right) and BMU Executive members, Temeke district, Tanzania. Copyright: Keith Hempshall / WWF-UK

Millions of jobs in fishing, aquaculture, recreation, tourism, shipping and offshore energy are supported, while mangrove forests and coral reefs protect our shores from storms. There are also unseen benefits – for example, did you know that oceans absorb and store more Carbon than the world’s forests?

WWF worldwide has hundreds of initiatives and dedicated staff working to better protect our oceans and coasts, plus the livelihoods of the millions of people that depend on them.

I have blogged previously on our projects in southern Tanzania where we are working with local people to better manage in-shore coastal waters and fisheries through Beach Management Units (BMUs) and improving livelihoods through Village Community Banks (VICOBAs). At that time we were working in three districts – Rufiji Delta, Mafia Island and Kilwa District – known as the RUMAKI seascape thanks in part due to funds from the M&S ‘Forever Fish’ campaign. Things have moved on, and as we celebrate our achievements through Forever Fish – and thank the UK public for their support – now is an ideal time for an update.

Over the last three years, the M&S Forever Fish campaign has supported WWF’s marine conservation work across the globe. Through a 90-second film narrated by WWF ambassador and actress Miranda Richardson, we’re celebrating what’s been achieved and thanking the UK public for their support.

Building on success so far

Thanks to the success of the programme in RUMAKI, we’ve secured new funds to expand to two additional areas:

  • Mtwara District, a large area in the very south of Tanzania. Here you’ll find pristine coral reefs, the Mnazi Bay Marine Reserve and thousands of fishermen dependent on having healthy fish stocks
  • Temeke, an area just south of Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam and which unfortunately has a major dynamite fishing problem. Dynamite fishing is illegal and involves throwing homemade “dynamite” bombs into schools of fish, which kills not only targeted fish but also other species in the blast radius. It also flattens any corals or seagrass underneath and is considered highly destructive, dangerous and indiscriminate.

As well as continuing to support the 26 Beach Management Units in place during the initial phase of the programme, we’re establishing new BMUs in Mtwara and Temeke. Our target by 2018 is to have 67 BMUs effectively managing around 1/3 of the entire coastline of Tanzania!
Once established, BMUs have the authority to: ban illegal or unsustainable fishing practices; patrol their coastal waters seizing illegal fishing gear; notify the authorities to arrest those using dynamite and other illegal fishing methods; help free any turtles accidentally caught up in nets and collect fish catch data to enable us to monitor the health of local fish stocks. They also control the number of boat and fishing licences issued, run awareness raising programmes and establish no-take areas to allow fish stocks to recover faster.

BMU’s and VICOBA’s

Community based management through local organisations such as BMUs is the most realistic way to improve the sustainable management of large coastal areas in developing countries where you have thousands of fishermen living. Good progress is being made, with reductions in illegal activities, seizures of dynamite and successful prosecutions of illegal fishers. This is all helping to improve the protection of coral reefs, mangroves an seagrass beds and in time, should help fish stocks recover.

This work is complemented by our VICOBA programme. Each VICOBA has a maximum of 30 members – local men and women – who regularly deposit small amounts as savings. Collectively these funds are then used to provide members with individual loans to expand – or establish – small businesses.  As these small businesses flourish, members are able to save more and the overall VICOBA funds available for loans increase. This in turn increases individual loan sizes, opening up increased business opportunities and profit and thus the amounts saved – a virtuous circle. VICOBA funds can also be accessed by members for medical emergencies –a kind of community based medical insurance mechanism – and for paying school fees.

We are now also rolling out the programme in Mtwara and Temeke and have so far established 71 new VICOBAs. Overall a total of 5,330 VICOBA members are now able to regularly save and receive loans to invest in their businesses and cover medical emergencies and school fees.
The VICOBA programme helps reduce the direct dependence of local people on natural coastal resources for their daily needs and builds tremendous goodwill and willingness to engage in our wider conservation work.

WWF acknowledges M&S, the EC and the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID)for their support of the RUMAKI programme.

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