Happy World Fisheries Day, the annual global event highlighting the importance of fisheries to human lives. This year I wanted to share some photos and insights from my recent trip to Tanzania and Seychelles, where WWF is on the front line working to protect tuna supplies, and their ocean home, for future generations.
Tuna are found in the tropical parts of all our oceans and migrate in huge numbers around the Indian Ocean, where 20% of all tuna are caught. In the Indian Ocean this resource sustains livelihoods – from coastal fishers who go out in hand made wood vessels to supply local markets in coastal East Africa, through to large purse seine vessels that supply the big brands you find in supermarkets across the UK and Europe.
The migration of tuna means all these livelihoods are linked – everyone involved across the ocean has a joint interest in collaboration and effective management that will ensure healthy tuna stocks for years to come. It can be hard, technical work, but I love being involved – the wellbeing of people’s livelihoods and the health of precious marine species and habitats are at stake.
Here are some of key moments from my trip….
1. WWF’s work in the region
For the last two years Thai Union Europe (TUE) has been in a partnership with WWF aimed at improving the sustainability of its supply chains. As part of the partnership TUE also provides funding to WWF’s sustainable fisheries programme in East Africa. Francisco, TUE’s Sustainability Manager and my WWF tuna colleague, Wetjens, joined me on the trip to learn more about the work. We started in Dar es Salaam (Dar) at the WWF-Tanzania office for an introduction to the programme. WWF has been working on wider fisheries management and also to ensure effective reporting of artisanal (or small scale) tuna catches to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) – which is responsible for tuna management in the Indian Ocean.
2. WWF and the Department of Fisheries Development division, Tanzania
We went to Mvuvi (“fisherman”) House, the Department of Fisheries Development division. The department’s role is to develop and implement fisheries policy, legislation and regulation. They are also responsible for fisheries conservation and the improvement of data collection and reporting. WWF has been collaborating closely with the department for many years, primarily to achieve success in policy reforms that will support fisheries management such as a regional tuna accord, establishing beach management units in the Fisheries Act and to develop community fisheries management guidelines. WWF has provided capacity-building support and empowering participation in dialogues with all stakeholders to ensure sustainable development.
3. Dar small scale fisheries fish market
We headed to the small-scale fisheries market in Dar. Here we found a bustling morning of fishers landing their catch off the boats, putting it on ice, trading, auctions, cooking and eating. There were lots of people talking and rushing past, with countless different smells that you couldn’t put down to one source alone. There were a wide variety of different species for sale including tuna. Much of the fish goes to small local businesses for cooking across the road and for selling immediately. We met with the Dar Small Scale Fisheries Association manager, who explained that they operate a cooperative that anyone connected to fisheries can pay into and register for association. This provides the members with a collective voice to communicate on important issues to the government.
4. Zanzibar Fisheries Department
From Dar, we then travelled to the island of Zanzibar and visited Nyangumi (“whale”) House, Department of Fisheries. In Tanzania there are three institutions with authority over fisheries working together: the Tanzania Department of Fisheries Development Division, the Zanzibar Department of Fisheries and the Deep Sea Fisheries Authority (DSFA). On Zanzibar there are around 34,000 small scale fishers. WWF is working with the Department of Fisheries and the small scale fishing sector to improve our understanding of what species are being caught, their weight and value and at what volumes. I was pleased to see the data collection forms now record the information of the tuna caught to the tuna species rather than a single box ‘tuna’ – which previously meant that commercial tuna and tuna-like species were not separated in the data. All of this work is important for demonstrating the importance of tuna (and the different species) to the economy and will help us and the Department of Fisheries better understand this natural resource and be able to implement effective management plans.
5. Nungwi small scale fish landing site
We got up early to drive to the north of the island and visit a village called Nungwi, where the small scale fishers land their catch, prepare the fish and sell it at local auction. In Nungwi there are about 1,500 fishers and 125 small scale boats. The process was very similar to that in Dar but on a smaller scale. It is a mixed fishery where they land a variety of different species. Tuna is about a third of the volume by weight landed but can make up to 70% of the value to the fishers. This makes it an important species here. The fishers sell some of the catch to restaurants and divide up the rest between them.
6. Small scale fishers meeting
After looking around the site, we had a meeting with the data collectors and two fishers groups. The Green Conservation Group is a collective of fishers formed in 1993. They have the mandate to patrol the waters, and are involved in co-management and conservation. The Fishing Village Community works with them and manages a fund which is made up from a 10% levy on the fishers. This is used to improve the wellbeing of the community, for example by funding local schools. All of the fishing community groups on Zanzibar communicate with each other. Large vessels shouldn’t come into the nearshore waters and fishers report them if they do. The data recording and monitoring is completed by people who are trained in Dar, who then train the fishers on data collection. The data is collected by each district (of which there are 10 in Zanzibar), then it goes to Department of Fisheries, who collate it and send it to the DSFA, who send it to the IOTC. This co-management structure between fishing communities and government is working well.
7. Around the fishing site
After our meeting we walked up the beach to see a local boat construction site. The boats are handmade and take about three months to make. Many of the fishing boats were moored as they fish in the night or early morning. We also saw a local turtle project, which takes in injured or sick turtles and rehabilitates them for release back in to the sea. They educate the fishers and locals about the importance of turtles to the marine ecosystem. When turtles are caught in the nests or the fishers find an injured one then they bring them to the project.
8. Meeting with the DSFA
The Department of Fisheries and the Deep Sea Fisheries Authority has been fully operational since 2010 and its remit is to deal with the shared fisheries matters of Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania, namely the high seas. The department is responsible for submission of data to IOTC and wants to make sure that Tanzania is getting the best from its natural resources. WWF is working closely with the agency on aspects such as lesson learning from other countries. At present they are reviewing much of the legislation, putting in place new rules to govern and control fishing activities at sea. One of their priorities is improving compliance to the IOTC. Capacity building in the governments, the BMUs and data collection and training will all contribute to increasing compliance. The DSFA collaborates with other fisheries management bodies in the region and shares information from patrols on IUU activity. There is need in the region to strengthen training in research, observers and inspectors. WWF is supporting the department in their attendance at regional meetings and has boosted collaboration in the region which is now going from strength to strength. WWF has also helped the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC) regarding Minimum Terms and Conditions for access to fishing grounds for foreign fleets. Much has been delayed due to lack of data – which is why getting this right remains a priority for everyone – WWF will continue to work to assist with the data reporting to the IOTC.
9. Factory/operations in the Seychelles
Francisco, Wetjens and I headed to the Seychelles. On the island of Mahe, I visited the large tuna processing factory owned by Thai Union Group which was a very different sight from the small scale fisher landings I’d seen in Tanzania. The factory is the largest employer on the island and processes tuna into thousands of cans every day. After the factory tour we went across the road – literally – for a meeting at the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA). This meeting was with TUE, the SFA and other tuna companies/fleets to discuss the ongoing development of a project that will support the purse seine fleets to achieve the Marine Stewardship Council standard.
10. Event in the Seychelles – launching a FIP
The following day, everyone was delighted to attend an event to launch the ‘Fishery Improvement Project’ (FIP) for the tuna caught by the Seychelles purse seine fleet in the Indian Ocean. This was a key moment in our partnership with TUE and will shortly bring about real, positive changes to the way tuna is caught and managed in the Indian Ocean. The event was covered in the media with Wetjens quoted saying the initiative is “a critical step towards improving the management and sustainability of the valuable tuna stocks in the Indian Ocean that are so important to the economies of both Seychelles and Mauritius.”
For more info about how WWF-UK works with the seafood industry, see our film on the Seafood Charter.