Tanzania: Dynamite Fishing Returns, Unabated!!!

Photo credit: Wolcott Henry

While working for Frontier Tanzania in the late 1990s I saw firsthand the devastating impact dynamite fishing had on coral reefs, the lives of the fishermen, and fish abundance in southern Tanzania. As an Asistant Marine Reserach Coordinator, I collected baseline data on the levels of biodiversity and habitat destruction using various marine survey techniques. The data collected was used to propose and finally lead to the opening-up of Mnazi Bay Marine Park in Luvura, Msimbati, Mtwara.

During my time with Frontier-Tanzania, together with Dr. Vicki Howe, Dr. Jean Luc Solandt, Dr. Jennie Mallela, Simon, Ian, Paul and many groups of research assistants from across the globe–we organized and facilitated a marine environmental education program for 12 primary schools 2 secondary schools and 1 teachers college on marine resources and conservation methods that included 365 students and 76 teachers.

In addition, we organized and facilitated a marine environmental education program for 19 local fishermen and 2 fisheries officers on marine resources and conservation, coastal zone management, power boat handling, and the collection and handling of fisheries data.

Furthermore, we developed the first bilingual (Swahili and English) environmental  education teaching and learning manual for secondary schools. The teaching and learning manual hard information on coral reefs, mangroves, and sea grasses. The manual was intended to spear-head marine and environmental awareness in the coast areas of Tanzania.

The program target was environmental awareness to children who were more likely to become fishermen when they grew up. It helped the coastal resources users to understand why destructive fishing methods such as dynamite fishing are not good for the environment and to themselves. It also provided experiential learning and teaching materials to teachers and fisheries officers. The hope was that these efforts could be replicated elsewhere in the coastal communities.

It is very disheartening to hear that after all efforts and money from various donors and commitment from various organizations (Tanzania Coastal Management Partnership and the like) that dynamite fishing has returned to Tanzania with a vengeance.

To read more about dynamite fishing in Tanzania, click here.


6 thoughts on “Tanzania: Dynamite Fishing Returns, Unabated!!!

  1. Pingback: DESTRUCTIVE FISHING PRACTICES – Saving Coral Reefs

  2. Great point. In Southern Tanzania—- Mtwara, Lindi and Kilwa in particular, there is already a grassroot organization called SHIRIKISHO who are very engaged in conserving the Marine and Coastal Environment. I worked for this organization as consultant to try to re-organize their organizational structure to be able serve their community better. This organization is actually credited for stopping dynamite fishing in Southern Tanzania under the leadership of Mzee Ghasia. As you said Kai, it can be done when the local community is engaged and the perpetrators are given justice they deserve. The main complaint from SHIRIKISHO members across the board was that….the justice system was not really helping them to solve the problem, as people involved were left off the hook too easily and the very connected ones never even saw a day in court.


  3. from what i read during my paper research, in Lake Victoria, community based fisheries regulate fishing and all the activities going on, in and around the lake including nearby villages. The community based fisheries are acknowledged by the society as well as the government. Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization also recognize their being and their work. This has largely reduced illegal fishing and other destructive fishing methods on the lake. If it is done in Lake Victoria, why not on Indian Ocean. As Shaaban said, we already know where the problem lies, the way around it is through village communities. People have stronger power to act than they give themselves credit for! They just need to be empowered. It can be done.


  4. Vicki

    So sad to hear of its return. so many thoughts on why and how and who……….other thoughts go to education/community programmes and how they need not to be one off or short “hits” but continuing and with long term support and infrastructure, something that is nigh on impossible with how politics work and how funding and employment is organised. This then is part of perhaps my largest frustration about the work we did in Mtwara – that it was too short, too short term and without funding or foresight for a more long term outlook. Still we all worked extremely hard and tried to do the best we could and I hope that the indivuals that did become involved all benefitted in some way. Also worth considering is that dynamite fishing is not only bad for the environment but can be catastrophic for the users and their families and the communities who rely on the fishermen and women to bring in the fish. lets hope it will cease soon……..


  5. I love that word sustainability. Here is my butter on gritts. My personal experience talking to small fishermen (artisan), actually they resented dynamite fishing. It destroys fish stock, it mimed them and significantly affect their fishing income. Most of the dynamite fishing is facilitated by “well-connected” people in the government and who are otherwise supposed to tackle this problem head on. While I agree with the notion that sustainable programs need to be developed, in this case sustainability has nothing to do with the outcome as the people supposed to solve the problem are the ones benefiting from it.


  6. I did a class presentation on marine in Tanzania and everyone was shocked to hear about dynamite fishing. Sadly true. Thing is, when donors put up money for surveillance, illegal fishing goes down but as soon as the money runs out..back to square one again. We need to formulate something sustainable that wont last a year or two!


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