Zanzibar has elevated Pemba Channel into a Marine Conservation area, a move that is expected to increase tourism.
The Fishing Act, which governs the establishment of Pemba Channel Conversation Area, became effective on September 23 last year and the Zanzibar Commission for Tourism has now started an awareness campaign.
The commission’s director of planning and development, Issa Mlingoti, told The EastAfrican that the conservation of the channel falls under the Marine and Coastal Environmental Management Project (MACEMP).
MACEMP will strengthen marine management institutions both in Zanzibar and on the mainland with the aim of creating a common governance regime for the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). It will also support coastal area planning and the establishment of a network of marine protected areas, community management areas and marine management areas.
A total of $328,000 has been made available for training and education, setting up an information centre and funding the awareness campaign. The money will also be used for boundary demarcation and enhancement of transport and communication infrastructure.
Three weeks ago, the commission, through the Ministry for Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Co-operatives convened a meeting with stakeholders -including fishermen – to present a report of the research and new directives and rules after the channel becomes a conserved area.
Mr Mlingoti said through MACEMP, fishermen have been mobilised to undertake their activities in light waters, and plans are underway to finance them to buy small boats to elevate them to modern fishing.
The Pemba Channel Conservation Area is positioned to the west of Pemba Island and it covers 42 nautical miles stretching from the southern tip to the northern one. It has a two-mile width stretching from Funda Island.
Mr Mlingoti said that because of its underwater wonders – which include an ancient town with mosques and roads – the Pemba Channel has been proposed by a recent research for elevation to a World Heritage Historical Site.
Four boats have been ordered from South Africa to strengthen the surveillance capacity of the Conservation Area, Mr Mlingoti said. He added that weak capacity to guard the Pemba Channel has resulted in frequent invasion by foreign illegal fishing vessels.
Pemba Channel was at one time the cause of a border dispute between Tanzania and Kenya. According to Mr Mlingoti, the dispute was solved amicably with both parties signing an agreement that identified the channel as belonging to Tanzania.
The Permanent Secretary in Zanzibar’s Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Co-operatives Rahma Mshangama said there would be surveillance to curb illegal fishing mostly by Kenyan fishermen.
“Legal action will be taken against those who are caught for illegal fishing,” she said.
Pemba Channel has tourist attraction sites such as Ras Mkumbuu, Menai Bay and Chumbe Island. Tourism has been Zanzibar’s main foreign exchange earner.
In the year 2004/05, the tourism sector earned $58.9 million compared with $39.4 million the previous year, a growth of tourist inflow of about 34.8 per cent.
According to the Bank of Tanzania’s annual report of 2004/5, Zanzibar undertook institutional measures to develop the tourism sector. As a result, the capacity to accommodate tourists increased tremendously.
Since then, there have been numerous opportunities for investments in the tourism sector, ranging from world class business hotels, conference centres, restaurants and catering facilities, including those providing traditional services like cruise ship transport, diving and game fishing.
Additional Reporting by Faustine Rwambali in Dar es Salaam