GRAPPLING with the problem of dynamite fishing, the Tanga City Council in cooperation with local non-governmental organization, Tumaini Environmental Conservation Group (TECG) in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) is embarking on an importance process to put in place a District Coastal Resources Co-management Plan aiming at elimination of fishing practices that destroy the resources through people's participation.
Our correspondent GIDEON GEORGE reports from Tanga. AT the first of a series of meetings organized by the Tanga City Council, in cooperation with a local NGO, Tumaini Environmental Conservation Group (TECG) to garner contributions for establishment of a District Coastal Resources Co-Management Plan aimed at saving the coastal areas from further degradation from such vices as dynamite fishing, a veteran environmentalist and Chairman of the Chongoleani Coastal Village Environmental Committee, a coastal village located to the north of the Tanga Port, Omari Kombo, was up in arms.
For him any talk about eliminating or reducing dynamite fishing or other forms of illegal fishing in the Tanga Coastal Zone could be mere voices in the air if there is no plan to involve coastal villagers in control efforts.
He has been reared in the successful collaborative Management Programs (CMAPs) established under the Irish Government supported by Tanga Coastal Zone Conservation and development Programme (TCZCDP) and the World Bank financed Tanzania Marine and Coastal Environment Management Project (MACEMP), which actively involved coastal villagers in the protection of the resources and reduced dynamite fishing to almost zero levels.
Kombo insists that without any concrete plan to achieve villagers' cooperation in patrolling the sea and seriousness in funding those patrols coastal resources would continue to be plundered to the detriment of the people of the coastal villages.
Faced with increasing dynamite fishing, Tanga City Council that successfully controlled the scourge for a number of years, is preparing a District Coastal Resources Co-management Plan aiming at elimination of fishing practices that destroy the resources.
The City Council in a good show of how the Public Private Partnership (PPP) works is collaborating with a City-based nongovernmental organization, Tumaini Environmental Conservation Group (TECG) to organize the initiative.
With funding from World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) routed through the Mazingira Network (MANET), the City Council and Tumaini, organized the first meeting involving over 60 stakeholders including villagers from the Tanga Coastal line.
"This is the first of the series of meetings that would send us to a comprehensive Coastal Resources Co-Management Plan," said the Fisheries Officer, Aneny Nyirenda adding that the meeting was aimed at securing early contribution from the coastal villagers.
The participants suggested a revival of the coastal area collaborative management area programmes (CMAPs) in a quest to stem the rising wave of illegal fishing activities along the Tanga coast, including dynamite fishing.
The participants who included the village Chairmen, Ward and Village Executive Officers from 20 Tanga District coastal villages, officials from the Tanga Tourist Network Association (TATONA) said that past experiences where villagers were actively involved in the management of the resources showed that only active participation of the villagers, serious awareness education and funding initiatives would eliminate dynamite fishing and save marine life from extinction.
Collaborative Management Plans the CMAP and Collaborative Mangrove Management Plans were the main achievement of the Coastal Zone Conservation and Development Programme and led to increased conservation and protection of the marine resources and increase of fish stocks along the Tanga coastal villages.
CMAPs were central to the former coastal conservation and the extension of the approach to mangrove forests. The fundamental basis of a CMA is that management is by resource users with each CMA comprising the 'home' fishing grounds shared by a group of villages or mangrove forests shared between two or more villages.
Dynamite fishing, according to Kombo and records from the two programs, had successfully been controlled during the era to almost zero levels increasing the volume of fish and fish catch.
According to records every time the programs ended dynamite fishing erupted with vengeance as it was case in 2006 when the TCZCDP ended and reported dynamite blasts suddenly shot up from almost zero to 69 blasts per month in the following year (2007) until another donor showed up through MACEMP.
However, it was reported that when the project was drawing to an end and the budget was dwindling, there were dire consequences in occurrence of the same phenomenon of 2007 when the TCZCDP came to an end in 2006.
It was reported by Mkinga District Fisheries authorities that dynamite fishing incidents shot up sharply again to 19 blasts per month in 2010 from just about four in 2009/10. Reduced funding from MACEMP was mentioned as the reason behind the situation.
And according to the Head of the Fisheries Patrol Unit, Zebadiah Ngogo dynamite fishing is still a major threat that is causing sleepless nights for the fisheries Patrol Unit along the Tanga Region coastline despite efforts made by the Government to control the devastative fishing practice.
Kombo said they were more than ready to participate in the new initiative but had reservations on the honesty of some officials from the fisheries department. "We once caught a fisherman with explosives in his boat but when his family followed the matter at the district level they were told to go back and negotiate with Chongoleani Environmental Committee to seek release of the boat," he said.
"The situation is obviously still precarious. Blasts are reported by stakeholders such as hotel owners now and then," said an obviously disappointed Mbogo who pointed out that the continuing dynamite fishing is not only causing a threat to marine resources but the economy through tourism - spot fishing.
He said that explosives from these companies seem to be loosely controlled, finding their way to fishermen who use them in dynamite fishing. He said that stakeholders, including the Tanzanian Dynamite Fishing Monitoring Network, a voluntary network of marine conservationists and the private tourism and fisheries sector are reported dynamite blasts.
Records show that the devastating form of fishing first appeared in Tanzania in the 1960s, and by the mid-1990s had become a serious problem. A high-profile national campaign involving hotel operators and the media brought international pressure and donor attention to the issue, and the navy was enlisted to assist with enforcement.
This campaign, along with close community and peer group control, succeeded in pushing out dynamiters for over two decades, particularly in southern Tanzania. Also in the north, blasting was rare for a few years between 1997 and 2003,the records point out.
However, according to the Tanzanian Dynamite Fishing Monitoring Network, since 2003, dynamite fishing has resumed. The new initiative calls for showing of more seriousness than it was before and for preparing an initiative that would not depend on donors.
Opening the meeting the City Director, Mrs Juliana Malange called on stakeholders to take stock of challenges and opportunities and prepare a plan that would help to stem the tide of increased dynamite fishing.
"Above all, you must remember that you are preparing a plan in which you will be the principal managers of the plan," said Malange.