From November 2011 I was a member of the expedition to the Spermonde Archipelago as part of a team sent by ZMT to being the site selection process for the upcoming SPICE III project. Along this theme I left my colleagues to return to wintery Bremen to continue onto Zanzibar, Tanzania. The plan is to spend 6 weeks identifying potential field sites for a project on coastal livelihood vulnerability and collaborate with ecologists already working on the island to improve our understanding of the social and ecological drivers behind Zanzibari fisheries.
The last three weeks of the expedition have gone very well, with the final sites now having undergone the preliminary assessments. In collaboration with our partners I drew up a matrix of site selection criteria by which all the sites were comparable. The criteria included fisheries census data such as species depended upon, presence of hotels and distance from Stone Town.
Speaking of the presence of hotels, the combined efforts of the ZMT team on Zanzibar are starting to produce some interesting results themselves. Indeed it would appear that tourism and poverty are the main drivers of fishing behaviour here on the island. Not only that, but there are some clear distinctions between which species fall into which sector. Tourists are far more responsible for fishing of marlin, swordfish, lobster and octopus, whereas local communities tend to feed on reef species such as moorish idol and emperor fish.
Not only this, but the presence of middle-men, who own the bigger boats and tap into the tourist market, has increased in the last 10 years as the number of visitors to the island has exploded. Although people appear grateful that the government is therefore maintaining roads and providing many new income opportunities, the degradation of their terrestrial and marine environment has not escaped them. Some villages have noticed a decline in potable water, have remained without electricity and are experiencing a decline in their fishing culture and identity. It begs the question whether tourism can truly provide a holistic benefit and alternative livelihood to fishing.
This last week has taken me to parts of Unguja island I hadn’t been before. I made my way down the north east coast starting at Pwani Mchangani then onto Kiwengwa, Pongwe and Uroa. The mode of transport to each village varied from daladala (glorified converted pickups that equate to the Zanzibari public bus service) to motorbike to reach the more remote villages.
The east coast boasts most of Zanzibar’s top hotels and given the beauty of the beaches and the surrounding forests it’s easy to see why. From basic interviews with village shehas (chairmen), bwana dikos (beach recorders) and fishermen, the pattern appears to be very similar across these four villages. The fishermen use long-lines and traps, occasionally a spear gun and nets in order to supply demand in the local hotels and in Stone Town. Everyone had the impression that fish stocks were decreasing, yet the increasing price of fish compensated for what would have been a loss in income. People prefer to sell big fish such as marlin for 100,000Tsh or more and eat the smaller dagaa (baitfish).
Seaweed farming was present in all four villages and was practiced by men and women, but the returns average around 400Tsh/kilo. Most people agreed that food security was becoming an increasing problem. In Kiwengwa the head fishermen told me “if the fish run out we have no other real options. We are not farmers. We don’t know how to farm.” Yet in Uroa it appears that fishing is already combined with agriculture and involvement in tourism in order to diversify the livelihood base.
Meanwhile the monsoon clouds have become darker every day and every morning heavy storms are battering the coast. We are entering the heart of the kaskazi season and the risk for the fishermen heading out in their dhows at 4pm increases.
This week has seen a lot of time spent at the IMS in order to organise research permits and translators. I’m still waiting to hear whether or not there will be someone to accompany me to the villages next week. For now I have been working on some papers and organizing which villages I need to visit before I leave in a month’s time. In total there will be 12 and two of these are already ticked off: Nungwi and now Kizimkazi.
Kizimkazi village, which is actually split into two, is found in the southern part of Zanzibar in an area known as Menai Bay. The bay is located a two hour daladala ride away. I say two hours, it could be done in perhaps one hour if the bus didn’t stop to load and unload bricks, chickens, people, furniture, vegetables and everything else under the sun at each corner. But Zanzibar is very pole pole (slow) as typical on most tropical islands.
Menai bay is actually a conservation area (MBCA) originally designed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) back in the nineties. The area already used customary forms of protection such as closed seasons and restrictions on fishing gear, and these have been incorporated into the MBCA plan. Dynamite fishing no longer threatens the area and cyanide use is low. However threats do exist from foreign vessels who use ‘illegal methods’ and from fishermen within Kizimkazi, especially one patron who insists on using small mesh nets and sends out up to 80 fishermen at a time. Given that Kizimkazi Mkunguni has only 400 licensed fishermen, this is a significant proportion to be headed by one patron. The patron, in addition to fishing, also owns a huge farm and some tourist operations. The fishermen under his hand do not benefit from these.
The village itself has around 4000 inhabitants and 6 hotels. The hotels, according to some previous research, consume around 400kg of fish each per week, bought locally of course. But landings are getting smaller, younger and less frequent. When asked why the catch was reducing, one fisherman just shrugged his shoulders and responded ‘it’s a game played by God. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose’. When asked about the prospects of sustainable fishing in Menai Bay, the aforementioned patron, who himself has seven children, answered very simply ‘every child has his own future’.
The first week I spent orientating myself in Stone Town, the capital of the semi-autonomous state of Zanzibar. The town has the biggest fish market and is fuelled by landings from all over the island. Species sold here can include swordfish, squid, octopus, black marlin, sailfish, tuna and even manta ray. Meetings with our counterparts from the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Dar-es-Salaam and other NGOs have been postponed until next week due to busy schedules and absences. So I headed up to the northern fishing village of Nungwi. In recent years tourism has bloomed like algae in Nungwi. What was once a quiet village with a few backpackers hostels has now become almost a 5* resort, boasting some of Zanzibar´s finest hotels and endless watersports, fishing and diving charters.
The effect on fishing has been significant. Upon visiting the landing site at 6am, I was able to observe auctions for any and all species that were dragged off dhows returning from overnight excursions. Most of the buyers were hotel representatives, picking off the largest and most lucrative items for their menus. Prices ranged from 5,000Tsh for a few snapper to 130,000Tsh for a whole swordfish. I´m not yet sure how this amount of money compares to the income portfolio of a typical Nungwi household previous to the tourist boom, but by Tanzania standards, these amounts are significant. Rather than rely on fish for food, households are instead relying on fish for income. More information on fishing methods and the status of the reefs and fishing sites around Nungwi is pending. It will be interesting to see people?s perceptions of the state of their fisheries, something that will have to wait until next week when official paperwork allows me to start conducting deeper interviews.
Daniella Ferrol-Schulte, WG Social-Ecological Systems Analysis