The inception of a 10-year coral reef targeted research and capacity building for management project (CRTR) is a sigh of relief to many Tanzanians, particularly coastal communities.
This is due to the fact that the coral reefs in coastal areas of Tanzania have been exposed to danger of extinction by years of intense human activities.Numerous marine researches conducted in the coastal areas of Tanzania had shown that coral reefs have been affected and called for urgent measures to save the situation from further deterioration.
‘’Unless we take serious measures to save the situation, the coral reefs especially in shallow water protected coral reefs are in danger of extinction,’’ said the Director of the Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) of the University of Dar es Salaam, Professor Alfons Dubi.
Professor Dubi specifically called for a press conference recently in Zanzibar as a way to seek for support to help raise awareness and educate the public especially fishermen to put a stop on damaging the coral reefs available in the coastal areas of Tanzania.
He said recommendations by local and international marine scientists who conducted the researches had propelled them to write several proposals to international organizations to look for help on conserving the coral reefs to attain sustainable development.
At last, he said, the Global Environment Fund in collaboration with the Development Grant Facility of the World Bank have agreed to commit USD 250 million for the execution of the project, the first of its kind, to take place in Tanzania.Under the project, an emphasis would be put in Mafia, Tanga, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Pemba islands, the most affected areas in coastal areas of Tanzania.
The project, according to the Director, has numerous objectives to help check against destructive fishing techniques and coral reef remediation and restoration.In addition, the project plans to build scientific capacity to inform management and policy makers so that coral reefs ecosystems under threat from climate change and multiple human stressors can be sustained for current and future generations.
The project also provides technical support to working groups in terms of research and training activities focusing on regionally relevant coral reef research on the impacts of coral reef bleaching, fisheries and various environmental factors.
At the same time, the project will emphasize coral reef recovery processes and facilitates information outreach and uptake in the East Africa.Several researches conducted in Tanzania had blamed local fishermen as responsible for the damage mainly because they do not care on the importance of coral reefs for the current and future generations.
Instead, the fishermen put their economic and social gains to get quick profits first than the national interests.As a result, coral reefs have been degraded by over-exploitation, destructive fishing techniques, unplanned and uncontrolled coastal development, sedimentation, poor upland agricultural practices, marine pollution and various natural disasters like tsunami and hurricanes.
It has been explained that fishermen in the affected areas engage in this destructive habit not because of lack of awareness or lack of national laws coupled with clear fisheries’ policies governing their activities.But, lack of strict enforcement of the existing fisheries laws and regulations by respective government institutions is the main predicament leading to the malpractice of destruction of coral reefs.
‘’Destruction of coral reefs is a threat now and must be treated seriously before it is too late,’’ stressed the Professor Dubi who was flanked by a number of local marine scientists at the IMS”s offices at the heart of Zanzibar Stone Town.
As a matter of fact, coral reefs form one of the essential global life support ecosystems necessary for food production, income generation and other socio-economic aspects of human survival and sustainable development of may tropical coastal communities.
According to marine experts, coral reefs in Tanzania cover more than 5,580 kms along the 3,547 kilometres of Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar coastline.Extensive reef areas are found along Tanga coast, Dar es Salaam coast, Songosongo archipelago, Mnazi and Mikindani bays in Mtwara, around Mafia islands and Zanzibar islands.
In carrying out the project, the first phase, deals with building and enhancing the capacity of institutions in East Africa (Zanzibar and Tanzania).Other institutions dealing with projects of similar nature have been established in Meso-America (Puerto Morelos, Mexico) and South-east Asia (Bolinao, Philippines) and the one based in Australia so that they can function as regional centres of excellence.
These centres of excellence are an important bridge in communicating research results to management and policy communities and consulting with stakeholders such as organizations of fishers, coastal managers and local governments.
It is now up to the government, institutions and communities in general to play their part in preserving the fabulous coral reef management.People especially local fishermen must change their attitude and instead support the coral reefs environment project and associated resources that contribute significantly to the welfare of coastal communities.
Tanzanians must accept the fact the coral reefs projects is one the golden opportunities to the nation and should be supported wholeheartedly.It is not easy to get such international support to pour millions of dollars to preserve our own environment.Therefore, there is need to give full support to the project and government legal machineries must act tough to those who will continue damaging the coral reefs Tanzania is bestowed with.