Inside Marine Park
The Mafia Island region which includes the Rufiji River Delta and Mafia channel, forms one of the finest complexes of estuarine, mangrove, coral reef, and marine ecosystems in the world, all lying in an area of around 1500km². The coral reefs are particularly diverse for Eastern Africa. Habitats in the area of the MIMP (821km²) include hard coral dominated reefs, soft coral and algal dominated reefs, sheltered back reef systems, inter-tidal flats with hard and soft substrate, mangrove forests, extensive seagrass beds, algal, sponge and soft coral sub-tidal beds. The area includes critical habitat for the dugong (Dugong dugon, vulnerable, IUCN, 1994) and sea turtles (Chelonia mydas, Eretmochelys imbricata, Lipidochelys livaceae, Dermochelys coriacea, all endangered and Caretta caretta, vulnerable, IUCN, 1994) and has been recognized as a critical site for biodiversity.
The first formal initiatives to create marine and coastal protected areas in Tanzania came in 1975 through regulations made by the then Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism under the Fisheries Act, 1970. Seven small areas of reef were declared Marine Reserves for total protection; these included two areas of Mafia Island, Chole Bay and Tutia Reef. Lack of personnel and funding resources have slowed implementation of these initiatives. Suggestions from various quarters urged the creation of larger, multiple use areas combining conservation and sustainable use and development.
Continuing studies initiated in 1988 by the University of Dar es Salaam (through the IMA0, with some financial support from Shell Petroleum Development Tanzania Limited, and with the collaboration of other agencies including, Frontier – Tanzania project, have provide important baseline information on which to develop planning. Along with resource data accumulated for the area the socio-economics of the area were also studied. A total of ten village communities lie within the boundaries of the MIMP. The villages are widely scattered with one adjacent to an area of coastal forest, which has been identified as important for conservation. The other villages exist close to the coast or on the offshore islands. All the inhabitants are highly dependent on the natural resources of the area for food, shelter and income. In addition, there are several commercial concerns whose businesses also directly depend on the natural resources. The local marine resource uses of the area include in decreasing order of importance; finfish fishing, octopus fishing, coral collection, shell collection, sea-cucumber and lobster collection.
In February 1991, a widely attended meeting was held in Dar es Salaam discussed the concept of a marine park on Mafia and resulted in the formation of a Steering Committee appointed by the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, Natural Resources and Environment, to further develop planning and propose the mechanism for creating and managing a marine park centered around Mafia.
The Steering committee collated existing information and made full use fo the co-operation extended by the Mafia District authorities and the Frontier-Tanzania project which was producing wide-ranging information on resource-use in addition to ecological studies (Horril and Ngoile, 1991). The Frontier group and local counterparts had also spent time discussing the idea of a multi-user marine park with residents of the area.
The proposed strategy was to concentrate on developing MIMP as an efficiently managed and fully functional marine park. Some support may also be provided for the BoT and MPRU as defined in the Marine Parks and Reserves Act 1994 so as the MIMP has a functional administrative umbrella.
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