Arusha — HIGH dependency by coastal people on marine resources for livelihood has been blamed for causing severe environmental degradation.
Making a presentation on "Sustainable Tourism Management in Marine Protected Areas of Tanzania," the Marine Park and Reserves Unit Director, Dr Abdillahi Chande, mentioned destructive fishing methods, mangrove and coastal forests cutting for charcoal and coral mining for lime being the major culprits.
Dr Chande was speaking during the ongoing First Pan-African Conference on "Sustainable Tourism Management in African National Parks and Protected Areas," taking place here under the organization of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, in conjunction with the United Nations' World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
"High dependency on charcoal for fuel, using logs for building and relying on coral lime for trade among residents of Tanzania's coastline pose great threats to the marine's protected area," observed Dr Chande.
He noted that coastal people also depend on fish and other types of sea food for both diet and trade resulting in cases of irresponsible fishing methods. The expert attributed all that to limited number of alternative income generating activities among coastal people, leading to over exploitation of marine resources due to over dependency on coastal resources for survival.
Official figures indicate that the Indian Ocean's coastal areas of Tanzania have been registering high tourism potential, a case example being the Mafia Island which currently attracts 4,500 tourists per year, a major development from just 800 tourists who toured it in the year 2000.
The Dar es Salaam Marine Reserves on the other hand currently attracts nearly 20,000 tourists per year, with the highest number recorded in 2006 when nearly 30,000 visitors sampled the attractions, another major increase from just 5,000 tourists who visited the reserves at the turn of the new millennium in 2000.
Tourist attractions found in marine protected areas include mangrove forests for birds watching, rare sea species such as the endangered turtles, dolphins, dugongs, whales, sharks and coelacanth (fossil fish), coral reefs, beaches and historical sites.
When it comes to potential tourism attractions on marine eco-systems, Tanzania is among the few countries in the world with remarkable water-based attractions. The country boasts of Saadan National Park in the coastal region which is one of the few areas in the world where wildlife meets the coastline, but the Western Hills peninsula of Lake Tanganyika features Gombe and Mahale National Parks, where forests full of wildlife extend to the world's deepest lake.
The country is also working to gazette its latest and 16th National Park in form of Saa-Nane Island of Mwanza which floats on Lake Victoria, the continent's largest water body which is also home to the Rubondo Island National Park.
Lake Manyara National Park is a reserve mapped alongside the Lake shores while the world's only breeding point for the pink flamingos is found on Lake Natron in Ngorongoro District.