Closed Areas, Gear Restrictions, and Fisher Knowledge in Mafia Island Marine Park, Tanzania.

Lay Summary 

This research project is part of a PhD that is investigating the effectiveness of fishery closures in ecosystem-based fisheries management worldwide; involving fish, fisheries, and industry. This part takes a social-ecological context to examine fishery closures within a multiple-use marine park in Tanzania. Fisher knowledge may often be the only source for some fisheries information in many areas. Thus, using fisher knowledge alongside scientific knowledge provides a valuable insight. For example, when used alongside biological and ecological data, fisher knowledge may improve the understanding of an area for conservation and fisheries sustainability.

Fishery closures are a tool used in managing fish stocks, for enhancing fisheries health and sustainability. They often allow certain types of fishing, and may be permanent or temporary. They are also one of the oldest marine management tools, yet can often be overlooked in marine conservation as not being a true marine protected area. This is partly due to their management priorities of increasing fisheries, rather than prioritising for marine conservation. Although, by protecting fish stocks, these areas can also provide conservation as unsustainable, destructive fishing practices are regulated. Hence, fish stocks are allowed time to recover and bottom habitat is left undisturbed.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is a broad term and includes: marine parks, multiple-use, no-take zones and fishery closures. Globally, MPAs have varying management goals, names and objectives. Collectively, they form a comprehensive network. Indeed, finding a balance between meeting the demand for food, while protecting the marine environment is a high priority challenge for the 21st century. Fishery closures can be easier to implement than an MPA, and may be more readily accepted by fishers. Coupled with other types of MPAs, fishery closures may be a leading link for bridging the conflicting interests that arise between fisheries, fishers, and conservation.

MPAs in Tanzania follow a management strategy that enhances conservation and biodiversity alongside the sustainable use of marine resources, and have active stakeholder involvement and participation. Mafia Island Marine Park (MIMP) was one MPA established in 1995 along the south-eastern part of Mafia Island, Tanzania. This was the first park in Tanzania to include local residents living within the park who are all highly dependent on the resources of the area. The marine park is a multiple use park and has: core zones that act as fishery closures, specified use zones that have fishing gear restrictions, and general use zones.

A mixture of survey designs aimed to capture social-ecological data was used. This included: face-to face, random sampling interviews with fishers and government officials, and rapid underwater visual census surveys to capture diversity and abundance of fish species and habitat health within the different zones. Interviews were conducted in two villages, Utende (also the site for MIMP headquarters), and Chole (a small island near Utende), that has access to each of the zones. Underwater surveys focused on the main fish species caught, and were in zones where fishers regularly fished.

Overall, 35 interviews and 7 underwater visual census surveys were conducted. In addition, other information collected included, site information, area maps, artisanal catch data, catch value, number of boats and fishers and participation in surveillance patrols. Interviews with marine park government officials were conducted in English, interviews with fishers were conducted in Swahili, using a local translator. For interview selection, the chairman for each village was interviewed first, followed by a member of the village liaison committee. Fishers were then selected for interview, at random by walking around and asking, or by them coming to the village chairman's office. Interviews were conducted in a mixture of locations including: the village chairman’s office, the beach, at fish landing sites, or outside fishers’ homes. Interview questions included general information on gear type, main species fished, habitat, area and experience, and then focused on their perception and knowledge of: the marine park, zones, fisheries management methods and overall conservation knowledge.

Key research objectives were to determine what fishers perceptions and knowledge are towards MPAs, fishery closures, and conservation, with reference to the MIMP. Additionally, to also seek to determine if fishers, as stakeholders, feel involved in the management plan. Using fisher knowledge and biological information from underwater surveys, this research will also seek to determine if closed areas have higher abundance and biomass of key economic species, than areas with gear and fish size restrictions. Finally, of interest will be how this biological information correlates with fisher information. Data collected from fisher surveys will be analysed alongside visual census survey data.

This research has been reviewed by the interdisciplinary Committee on Ethics in Human Research and is in compliance with Memorial University’s ethics policy. ICEHR Number: 2012-314-SC.

Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research
MUN International Centre And School Of Graduate Studies Going Global Grant, Centre For Fisheries Ecosystems Research (CFER)
St. John's
Newfoundland and Labrador
Environment and Conservation
Fishery Research
Marine Biodiversity
Fishing Industry
Marine Protected Areas
Industry Sectors 
Fishing, Hunting and Trapping