Mwambao Coastal Community Network: Tanzania Blast-fishing

Dead fish on reef resulting from blast-fishing - Copy

Fishing using explosives is widespread along Tanzania’s 800-km Indian Ocean coastline. This so-called ‘dynamite fishing’ is currently considered to be more widely practiced in Tanzania than at any other point in the country’s history and presents one of the foremost threats to the country’s rich coral reef and in-shore fishery resources, the lucrative coastal tourism industry, the livelihoods of the millions of people who depend on coastal fisheries for their resources, and peace and security in coastal areas.

Major coastal towns are the hubs with well-connected businessmen financing the operation and using local villagers as crew. Village fishers also engage in the practice on their own, both on foot and on local boats. Explosions no longer rely on sticks of dynamite; homemade bombs are common and created using bottles and granular fertilizer. Fishers’ report that it is normal to hear 20 to 50 blasts a day. Despite being aware of the destructive effects, they continue to use explosives because of poverty, and are tempted by the quick returns.

Mwambao Coastal Community Network conducted a multi-stakeholder consultation in 2014 along the entire coast and shed light on factors enabling this practice to flourish. Key factors include easy availability of cheap materials for making explosive devices, influential businessmen who finance the operation and market the fish, lack of local marine resource ‘ownership’ i.e. inoperational Beach Management Units, ineffective law-enforcement at the district level as a result of corruption, and a lack of political will at all levels.

As awareness is lacking regarding the gravity of the situation, this project will establish a network of recorders to collect 6 months of blast-fishing data using mobile phone technology.

The planned Project Outcome is an increased awareness of the current extent of blast fishing spanning key areas of the north Tanzanian coast through provision of reliable information that will increase political will and provide a baseline for any ensuing control initiatives.

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