• 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 shark and ray research and conservation, coral reefs, marine mammals and innovative techniques such as investigating the use of biological fluorescence as a potential research, diagnostic and conservation tool. Our shark and ray research comprises fisheries monitoring in addition to underwater baited video (BRUV) research. Data will be used to develop Tanzania's first shark and ray management plan.

CONSERVATION SIGNIFICANCE CONSERVATION SIGNIFICANCE

The Southwest Indian Ocean (SWIO) region is a global hotspot for shark and ray biodiversity with over 220 species recorded to date. However, the status of these species rays is poorly understood and there is generally little regulation and monitoring of fishing for elasmobranchs, particularly in small-scale fisheries. It is estimated that nearly 26% of shark and ray species in the region are classified as threatened globally on the IUCN Red List, including several that are Critically Endangered. Furthermore, 30% 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

Overfishing through both targeted and incidental catches and associated mortality in industrial or small-scale fisheries is the greatest threat to shark and ray species in the SWIO region. This is also the case in Tanzania, where 47 shark species and 34 ray species have been recorded to date - including several 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 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 over 330 DNA samples have also been collected to date. Daily market data is also recorded, including an estimation of fishing pressure targeting sharks, the market price for chondrichthyan species and details of shark auctioneers. 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 to be developed by government using WCS data.

Shark and ray awareness and 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.

In addition to shark and ray work, WCS embarked on an ambitious new coral reef research and conservation program in 2018. More news to follow soon.


MARINE PHOTOS © Mike Markovina