• Tanzania Marine Program

    LANDSCAPES

    Tanzania Marine Program

    Tanzania’s extraordinary biodiversity extends beyond the land and into the marine realm. WCS’s marine conservation work currently focuses on sharks and rays, coral reefs and marine mammals.

  • Tanzania Marine Program

    LANDSCAPES

    Tanzania Marine Program

    WCS is carrying out research into shark and ray populations across Tanzanian waters to address gaps in knowledge, awareness and conservation action.

  • Tanzania Marine Program

    LANDSCAPES

    Tanzania Marine Program

    WCS is working on a coral reef and conservation program

  • Tanzania Marine Program

    LANDSCAPES

    Tanzania Marine Program

    WCS is investigating the use of biological fluorescence as a potential research, diagnostic and conservation tool

  • Southern/ Highlands
  • Ruaha/ Katavi
  • Tarangire/ Ecosystem
  • Zanzibar/ Forests
  • Marine Program
WCS’s marine conservation work currently focuses on coral reef and shark and ray research and conservation across mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar waters. Supporting effective fishery and marine protected area management is a central to our work. WCS research findings are key to improving conservation strategy, with the data being used to develop Tanzania's first shark and ray management plan in addition to informing better reef protection.

CONSERVATION SIGNIFICANCE CONSERVATION SIGNIFICANCE

Coral reefs are the most diverse and productive ecosystems in the world’s oceans. They occupy just 0.1% of the sea, yet are home to 25% of all marine species. Healthy coral reefs are essential for fisheries, coastal protection and tourism and therefore the livelihoods and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of Tanzanians. WCS has been studying the world’s tropical reefs for decades, including 94 sites in Tanzania, gaining crucial insight into the impacts of human activities. This research has also revealed that Tanzania has some geographic features that create unusually stable ocean temperatures, thus shielding many reefs from the more severe impacts of climate change. Tanzania’s reefs also have a unique community of corals and fish found nowhere else, making them a global priority for conservation. 

The Southwest Indian Ocean (SWIO) region is a global hotspot for shark and ray biodiversity. However, the status of these species is poorly understood and there is generally little regulation and monitoring of fishing for elasmobranchs, particularly in small-scale fisheries. 66% of known shark and ray species in the region are classified as threatened globally on the IUCN Red List, including 10 that are Critically Endangered. Furthermore, 14% of the species are classified as data deficient, meaning that there is insufficient information to assess their conservation status. Sharks and rays are vital for stable marine ecosystems, hence their survival is inextricably linked with that of fisheries, its economy and the people that rely on them locally and nationally. Given that most of these species grow slowly, mature late and produce few young, research, conservation and sustainable fisheries are vital.

THREATS THREATS

Reefs all over the world are threatened by human activities such as unsustainable fishing, pollution, physical damage and the impacts of climate change. Many of Tanzania’s reefs have been degraded by destructive fishing and over-fishing, jeopardising local and national incomes as well as community health. Compliance with effective fisheries management is needed urgently to prevent further reef decline and maintain productive fisheries.

Overfishing through both targeted and incidental catches and associated mortality in industrial or small-scale fisheries is also the greatest threat to shark and ray species in the SWIO region. This includes Tanzania, where 56 shark species and 41 ray species have been recorded to date – of which several are highly threatened species. Overall quantities, trends and the species composition of catches are very poorly known, as are studies of the local and international trade in elasmobranchs.

WCS APPROACH WCS APPROACH

WCS is working with partners to protect coral reefs, improve small-scale fishery management, community livelihoods, and MPA management across a Trans-Boundary Conservation Area (TBCA) comprising ~6000 sqm in northern Tanzania and southern Kenya. Current activities in Tanzania focus on 3 communities - Ndumbani, Moa, and Jasini. WCS is also supporting infrastructure development in the Tanga Coelacanth Marine Park (TACMP), assessing financial sustainability and MCA strategies and MCS strategies in addition to training rangers on ecological monitoring and adaptive management. Development of sustainable and resilient livelihoods related to fisheries and marine-related supply chains across the project area has thus far included a baseline assessment of community wellbeing, the evaluation of possible value chain addition solutions, and the development of alternative livelihood projects. Support has also been secured to train community members in blue carbon ecosystems and carbon credits and to develop maps of mangrove and seagrass habitats. The protection of these areas will then set the basis for future blue carbon accreditation.

In the Zanzibar archipelago, WCS is supporting effective Marine Conservation Area (MCA) management with activities focused on supporting the implementation of General Management Plans, improving coral reef conservation effectiveness and small-scale fishery management and MCS strategies. Ecological surveys for baseline assessment and monitoring of coral reefs have been undertaken, data collection protocols for coral reefs revised, and available datasets harmonised. Support of small-scale fishery management will be ensured by integrating and strengthening the existing catch data collection network, supporting fishery mapping across selected sites and fisheries, and re-analyzing new and past data. Monitoring and surveillance will be strengthened by providing support in the implementation of monitoring technologies such as SMART for reporting and analysis of surveillance effectiveness. 

WCS aims to contribute to the conservation status of shark and ray species in Tanzania and the broader SWIO Region by collecting comprehensive ecological and fishery data to contribute to the development of management recommendations and shark and ray conservation policy. Ecological data is collected using two methods; baited remote underwater video (BRUVs) to obtain data in their natural habitat and monitoring catch rates and species composition at selected fish markets and landing sites along the mainland and Zanzibar coastlines.

Elasmobranch catch monitoring was begun in 2017 at 2 key landing sites and 2 main fish markets on Unguja Island, Zanzibar. Since then it has been expanded to key sites on Pemba Island and on the mainland. Each specimen is recorded using a unique fish identification code. Biological data including total length, fork length, sex, and maturity are recorded for sharks. Disc length, disk width, sex, and maturity are recorded for rays. All specimens are photographed to verify the species, and DNA samples are also taken from selected individuals. Daily market data is also recorded, including an estimation of fishing pressure targeting sharks, the market price for chondrichthyan species and key people involved. Mobile technology is being used to assist with data collection, where research assistants use a smartphone app to record photos and market data. WCS has partnered with the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI) to facilitate research and share data with them.

Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) research has been carried out around Zanzibar and along the mainland coast, using the stereo BRUV system. This enables accurate estimates of the length of animals sighted, hence allowing their weight and age to be established. Analysis of this data is in progress.

Tanzania’s first shark and ray management plan is being developed by government using WCS data and technical support.

Marine focused environmental education is scarce in Tanzania so WCS is addressing this need by researching, producing and distributing educational materials to coastal communities as well as broader national and international audiences.