Masoud Kipanga, Community Conservation Assistant - Sustainable Fisheries, Mafia Island Marine Park, Tanzania
No best word can describe my love to the sea – my life is built on it. I was born on Mafia Island, my grandfather and father were fishermen, and I have been raised on incomes from fishing.
The sea to me is like a farm with crops, which need to be harvested sustainably. I love the sea with plenty of fish, pristine corals, sea grasses, sea cucumber, sea shells, sea plants, turtles, dugong’s, mangroves, unpolluted waters and clean attractive beaches. However I won’t be doing it justice if I don’t say that the sea provides employment, leisure, medicines, transportation, education, food and habitat.
What work do you do?
I help the marine park to phase out the use of unsustainable fishing gear, such as purse seine nets, through interest free loans. I advise fishers on the advantages of changing their gear and help them to acquire modern fishing skills, through practicing shark nets, fishing at fish aggregation devises (FADs), deep sea line fishing, and localizing new fishing grounds outside the park – all to take fishers out of coral areas and into areas where there is plenty of fish.
At the moment, I am helping fishers to overcome their fear of fishing in deep waters. Since generations, the fishers here are used to fishing securely in the shallow waters, and regard the deeper waters with suspicion and sometimes fear.
What do you love about your work?
I can see it makes a difference to the local people living here. When my work brings success to the community living in and around the park, it also brings success to me. When I was young, the sea was well conserved due to sustainable ways and gears used in exploiting its resources. That is why I am struggling to contribute to my ability to revive back the marine environment as it was back then.
After professional training in fisheries, I worked in administration for the government and the city of Dar es Salaam. Working for WWF brings me much closer to the realities of fishing. The job gives me the opportunity to practice my technical know-how, and allows me to go to sea often.
Earlier, dynamite fishing was rife in the park, and fishers used to throw explosives to catch schooling fish. The use of beach seine nets was also common, and this method catches all fish that comes in its way, big and small. Now, these methods are banned and no longer used in the park – and we can see the result: a few years ago, fishers could not catch any fish close to shore. Today, big fish come close to the beach again, and every day I see fishers standing in shallow water catching big fish. That, for me, is success!
What is your hope for the future of the sea at Mafia?
I have good hope. The development of new fishing techniques for poor people will bring more sustainable fishing to the park area, and take the pressure off the corals, while feeding people and giving them a better future.
But there are some big problems too. Outside fish dealers and owners of purse seine nets come in and pay poor park residents to use their nets and then buy up the fish. Another big problem is the foreign fishing vessels that come in to the park at night to long-line and trawl illegally outside the reefs. They hide their identity and scurry out should any patrol boat come near. This practice needs to be stopped!