26 October 2012

Tanzania: Expert Warns Against Dynamite Fishing

AN American environmental expert has warned against rampant cases of dynamite fishing at Maziwe island close to Pangani river in Tanga region which is destroying coral reefs.

Oregon-based Lewis & Clark College Tropical marine biologist, Dr Kenneth Clifton said during his last visit to the country, he observed that the area had 400 different species of fish and countless species of invertebrates.

"As a Tropical marine biologist who has studied coral reef fishes around the world for more than 30 years, I find Maziwe's reefs to be vibrant and healthy," he wrote in a scholarly article published by the college's website.

Dr Clifton pointed out that given the important role that coral reefs play in promoting biodiversity as well as providing an invaluable resource for humans, the Maziwe reef system is one of the country's greatest national treasures.

"I must share some alarm concerning the increased fishing activity and destructive harvesting practices I observed during my most recent visit. Despite Maziwe's protected status as a marine reserve, I noted fishing boats and net use on Maziwe's reefs each of the four days I visited the reef," he wrote.

The biologist said he heard dynamite blasts and also encountered a spear-fisherman with several fish and an octopus on his stringer. "Finally, while walking on Maziwe Island I encountered the track of a nesting turtle that had obviously been flipped over and dragged to the shoreline, presumably to be taken away by boat.

I am concerned that these different harvesting activities will have deleterious impacts on the coral reefs of northern Tanzania," he warned. The government is seeking to protect more fish breeding grounds including rivers, lakes and Indian Ocean coastline by law once the 1994 Marine Park Act is reviewed.

Minister for Fisheries and Livestock Development, Dr David Mathayo said during the last budget session of the Parliament that amendment of the Act will seek to protect fish's breeding ground against acts of sabotage including dynamite fishing.

"Our intention is to protect the future of our children," Dr Mathayo said as Tanga Tourism Network Association (TATONA) expressed support for the move. The Director of Sea Products Limited, Eric Allard said that all investors in the region wanted to see illegal activities such as dynamite fishing stopped.

"Actually, all investors in tourism in Tanga want better marine conservation and see the marine park in Tanga as a welcome way to achieve that. The Tanga Coelacanth Marine Park is like no other marine park in Tanzania or regionally," Mr Allard who is a member of TATONA, said.

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