The fisheries sector plays an important role in the national economy of Tanzania. The sector contributes to about 1.4 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The sector employs a considerable number of people directly and indirectly, working as fishers, traders, processors, suppliers and merchants of fishing accessories and employees and their dependants.

In 2010, an average of 1,021.6 Metric tones (Mt) was landed from the Tanzania Exclusive economic Zone (EEZ); while some 7,834.8 Mt was landed from the Mainland Tanzania artisanal fishery.

Speaking during the just ended 3rd National dialogue on sustainable tuna fisheries management in Tanzania in Bagamoyo, Coast Region, Fisheries Programme Officer with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Edward Kimakwa said that the potential of marine fisheries resources in Tanzania is least exploited.

“Tanzania Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) lies within the richest tuna belt of the South West Indian ocean (SWIO).” He said there was limited data on how much of this stock is exploited by distant water fishing nations (DWFN) due to weak monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS).

Tuna therefore presents the richest single-species fishery potential in the country. The challenge to Tanzania is how to take advantage of the opportunities of the globalised world fisheries and trade and bring about significant flow of benefits to their national economies and improve the living standards of the local communities who depend on the coastal and marine fisheries for proper management and exploitation of the resources to reap maximum benefits for Tanzania at biologically, ecologically and socio-economically sustainable levels.

According to WWF data tuna’s global production has steadily increased over the past 50 years, from less than 0.6 million tones in 1950 to over 6 million tones in 2004-generating an income of around US dollars 5 billion. This catch represented over 7 per cent of total marine capture fisheries reproduction 2002.

Western Indian Ocean region is important for tuna and supports one of the largest industrial fisheries which accounts for 70 to 80 per cent of the Indian Ocean catch and 20 per cent of the global production, worth some US dollars 2-3 billion annually, is caught in the Eastern African region.

The increasing demand of fish especially from the developing world of the West, China and Japan whose domestic resources have dwindled from poor management presents a challenge as well as an opportunity of the WIO range states, including Tanzania in their efforts to exploit and manage tuna stocks in a sustainable manner.

He further said that “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,” noted Kimakwa.

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.

At his part, the Deputy Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock Development, Dr Yohana Budeba confessed that due to mismanagement in the sector, the Government was losing around US dollars 2-5 billion annually. But he promised that the government in collaboration with WWF-Tanzania Office and other key stakeholders was committed to reverse the trend for the benefit of the people.

Budeba said his ministry has launched a new tuna fishery strategy aimed at enabling the east African nation to reap maximum benefits from catches of tuna by foreign vessels in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

“Tanzania is among the top 10 countries in Africa in terms of total capture fisheries production but it only contributes 1.4 per cent to the gross domestic product,” said Budeba. 

According to Budeba the implementation of the strategy will be coordinated by the Department of Fisheries Development of Zanzibar and the Fisheries Development Division of Tanzania mainland.

He said plans by the government were underway to empower small scale tuna fishers who actually contribute 90 per cent of the total catch to create fishing joint venture with fishing multinational companies to engage in deep sea fishing rather than leaving the whole work to be done by foreign companies, who leave the country with a big catch unnoticed.

Head of Marine of Coastal East Africa-Global Initiative, Domingos Gove, said if Tanzania and other Eastern African countries wanted to benefit from the fisheries industry, installation of marine monitoring devices together with improvement of surveillance was not an option but a necessity.

“Construction of a wet 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,” Gove explained.

Head of Monitoring Control and Deep Sea Surveillance in Zanzibar, 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 device 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 for the government to give priority to the sector to maximise profits,” urged Haji.

However, key stakeholders in the fisheries sector and other good wishers have said if Tanzania wanted to maximise profits from tuna catch it should do the following: It should collaborate with other countries from the EAC and SADC blocks in various decisions on how to manage tuna because they are highly migratory; it should build the capacity for small scale tuna fishers to enable them venture into deep sea fishing and sustainable development of the tuna subsector.

Government should also train more personnel in the sector in order to bridge the gap of the inadequacy human resources experienced in the sector; and address the problem of funds by allocating enough funds to the sector.

It should construct wet cargo port where distant fishing water nations would come to unload their catch for verification of their total catch before transporting them to their respective countries.

They say the construction of wet cargo port would create employment opportunities to our young people, will provide us with fish; and will give us the right statistics of their catch and hence give more income to the national economy.

The objective of the workshop that was organised by WWF in collaboration with the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development was to bring together and provide a platform for the key actors in the marine fisheries sector in the country with a view to evaluate the current status of implementation of sustainable development and management of tuna/tuna-like fisheries resources initiatives in Tanzania, while taking into consideration the regional and global perspectives.

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