How sustainable fishing has changed lives of islanders

07Aug 2020
Henry Mwangonde
Kilwa
The Guardian
How sustainable fishing has changed lives of islanders

SUSTAINABLE fishing programme that halts activities for a while has seen increased harvests and average weight of individual Octopus fish from half a kilo to five, bringing more money to residents of Songosongo Island in Kilwa District, Lindi Region.

Songosongo Beach Management Unit (BMU) members shows a fresh catch of Octopus Fish as captured at the Island few days ago.Photo Henry Mwangonde

This is a result of community-led fishing access control through periodic closure and opening of Octopus fishing ground. 

With this scheme, resident community members close their Octopus reefs for three months before they open and fish for three consecutive days.

Before the introduction of the initiative average catch for three days of fishing could bring about 300 to 500 kilogrames but after the introduction of the project, three days of fishing bring 20 to 40 tonnes of Octopus.

When the Octopus closer was first introduced in Songosongo Island in Kilwa District, Lindi Region in 2018, it appeared as a huge disruption for residents whose livelihoods depend on fishing.

However, after seeing the massive increase in the size of catches and amount of tonnes, the residents who initially protested the initiative have become the main supporters and protectors. Supported by World Wide Fund for nature (WWF) the initiative began by awareness creation to the islanders followed by halting of fishing activities for three to four months.

Speaking to The Guardian in an interview recently, Thomas Chale, a livelihood, food security and enterprise development officer for WWF said, the main aim was to improve the economic lives of the fishing households. “In this programme we supervise residents on the sustainable use and conservation of marine resources, which  allows the Octopus and even other fish species   to grow and community have evidence on  the quality of their  harvests and they  now understand what sustainable fishing means and that the resource is theirs” said Chale.

He said so far, about 69 Beach Management Units (BMU) have been formed in a number of districts along the Indian Oceans namely Kibiti, Mafia, Kilwa and Kigamboni.

The Village Headman for Songosongo  Swaluya Hassan Saad said, Songosongo Island whose population is about 6,880 relies on entirely on fishing for their lifeline.

The introduction of Octopus closer and opening have made the island to be known as one of the potential producer of Octopus in Tanzania.

 In the last reef opening, we got 37,599 tons of Octopus  and the entire village had a number of fish buyers from fish export industrial processors and other middlemen from Tanga, Zanzibar, Coast region, Dar es salaam, Mtwara and Lindi regions. 

He further pointed that,  before the introduction of the said fishing scheme, blast fishing was threatening the future of the Island.

He however said the malpractice is no longer undertaken in the area , thanks to the Beach Management Units, WWF, fajovi hotel and the government  for their collective efforts to control and eliminate illegal fishing.

Dr Modesta Medard WWF Marine Programme Coordinator said the idea hails from empowering communities for them to own their resources and get involved in conservation of marine resources.

“The aim was to change the governance system in the fisheries sector from top-down management system to Community Based Management systems.

Through this system, WWF facilitated the establishment of BMUs at village level to oversee the governance of their marine resources at local level.

“We offered a number of trainings to BMUs and coastal communities for them to take leadership in ownership of the resources, making commitments to their roles and responsibilities, development and implementation of resource management plans, selection of their fishing areas for collective management and data collection and monitoring, among others,” she said.