HUGE fish stocks that Tanzania is endowed with including tuna, the species with the highest economic value in the world, contribute insignificantly (1.3 per cent) to the gross domestic product (GDP) despite its enormous potential.
More than 300bn/- is lost annually due to lack of facilities to enhance sustainable fishing in deep waters, including uncontrolled fishing by Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFN) in the country's territorial waters, experts have observed.
Addressing participants to the 3rd Tanzania National Tuna Dialogue that brought together fishing stakeholders in Bagamoyo on Friday, the Acting Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock Development, Dr Yohana Budeba declared the government's commitment in collaboration with WWF-Tanzania Office and other stakeholders to reverse the trend for the benefit of the people.
"The National Tuna Fishery Management Strategy (NTMS) is currently on board and has already been signed by the responsible minister.
The policy, among other details, aims to optimise the biological, environmental, social and economic benefits," Dr Budeba said. The idea, he added, is to ensure effective coordination of harvesting of tuna and other species of fish available in the deep sea for the country to realise profits accordingly.
It appears that the continent needs to take additional measures to benefit from the fisheries, especially tuna species, participants were informed. In his presentation, Mr Edward Kimakwa, Fisheries Programme Officer from WWF-Tanzania Office said Africa loses between 2 and 5 billion US dollars due to mismanagement of marine products.
"Illegal fishing and unmonitored activities in the ocean has not only denied African states good revenues but also caused massive destruction of the ecosystem, complicating efforts on sustainable marine conservation.
"Through serious engagement with the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) with its headquarters in Mauritius, member states can make a difference," Mr Kimakwa expressed optimism.
The member states include Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, Comoros, Seychelles and Mauritius. However, among these countries some have made tremendous progress and currently realising huge gains from the sector.
Head of Marine of Coastal East Africa-Global Initiative, Mr Domingos Gove, said installation of marine monitoring devices together with improvement of surveillance was not an option but a necessity.
"Construction of a fishing harbour, for example, will earn the country billions of dollars as the facility will translate into action the legislation that oblige foreign fishing vessels to dock for verification of tuna catch and other species to be obtained for local consumption," Mr Gove explained.
The explanation echoed support from the Assistant Director Fisheries Resource Development in the ministry, Ms Fatma Sobo, who confirmed sharing of information with countries like Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles and others already installed with the devises.
Information shared includes intrusion of territorial waters by unlicensed foreign vessels. Head of Monitoring Control and Deep Sea Surveillance in Zanzibar, Mr Haji Shomari Haji said on average 50 foreign vessels are issued with fishing licences in the deep seas and 37,000 US dollars is charged for each vessel.
"We (Tanzania) have Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) to keep track of marine activities by foreign vessels. But the devise can collect information when a fishing vessel with installed signals is also on. It seems some of the operators switch off the signals deliberately to harvest excessive amount of fish particularly tuna.
It is time the government gave priority to the sector to maximise profits," Mr Shamari explained However, representatives of Beach Management Units (BMUs), essentially volunteers, expressed concern on rampant availability of explosives (dynamites) used in illegal fishing.
They questioned the rationale for ominous silence maintained by concerned authorities, particularly the marine police, the navy and other security organs on manufacturing of dynamites, some detonated in close proximity to the State House and neighbouring islands to kill fish.
Mfaume Athumani, Chairman of Youth Vision of Kigamboni challenged the authorities to 'dig deep' to expose all those behind dynamite manufacturing and those who supply them with the explosive material used to blow up the coral reefs to kill fish.
"It is an open secret that the Buyuni fish market in Temeke District which is active in the evening is supplied with fish from dynamites which destroy fish breeding grounds, sea weeds (food) and other devastation.
Let the authorities act accordingly," Mr Athumani appealed. According to researchers, three types of tuna fish are available in the Tanzanian territorial waters.
These include skipjack, yellow fin and big eye. There are more than 14 species found world wide. Tunas are excellent swimmers and their bodies are designed for high performance at both sustainable and burst swimming speeds.
Migrations are seasonal movements, often over long distances, for the purpose of feeding or reproduction. Tunas must swim constantly to satisfy their oxygen requirements and consequently stay alive.