Populations of sea turtles and dugongs have been declining on a global scale over the past few decades. In Tanzania, exploitation of sea turtles and dugongs for meat is commonplace, artisanal gillnets and commercial prawn trawlers pose a serious threat in inshore waters and plastic pollution poses a risk to foraging animals. Unregulated coastal development has caused the loss of sea turtle nesting sites and coral mining and mangrove harvesting are having considerable impact on critical marine habitats.
One of the biggest threats to the marine ecosystem and fisheries based livelihoods in Tanzania is dynamite fishing, the act of using explosives to kill or stun large schools of fish for easy collection. Dynamite fishing is indiscriminate, killing many marine species with each blast. Although illegal and highly dangerous, dynamite fishing continues unabated along much of the Tanzanian coast. It is highly destructive and the long term effects are considerable, both environmentally and socio-economically. Poor licensing, distribution and management of explosive materials ensures that dynamite is readily available and affordable. Recently, Sea Sense has received reports of dolphins being targeted by dynamite fishers to provide bait for the shark fishing industry.
Sea turtles, dugongs, whale sharks and dolphins are protected by national fisheries legislation (2003 Fisheries Act and 2009 Fisheries Regulations). However, laws protecting these species are rarely enforced and knowledge amongst District Fisheries Officers remains poor. In the forthcoming months, Sea Sense plans to hold training workshops for fisheries staff to improve their knowledge and understanding of endangered marine species and national and international legislation which exists to protect them including new levels of protection for some sharks and manta rays under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).