Sea Sense and a reflection on 2014

2014 was an extremely busy year for Sea Sense and we achieved everything we set out to, plus a few extra exciting projects that came our way.

The research aspect of our work focused on filling large knowledge gaps in relation to the distribution, behaviour, threats and population status of endangered marine species in Tanzania.  In 2014 we launched a three year dugong research and conservation programme which is a regional collaboration between Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique and Seychelles. Through community Focus Group Discussions and snorkel surveys we identified nine sites where we will be deploying acoustic loggers in 2015 to record dugong presence and establish the number of individuals (did you know that dugongs communicate through a series of whistles, chirps, barks and other sounds that echo underwater?).

As part of our sea turtle research programme we conducted night time foot patrols on 10 major nesting beaches in Mafia and Temeke Districts every night during the peak nesting season in April and May. 36 individual females were identified and tagged so that we could determine the number of times they nested. Analysis of data collected over successive years will enable us make an accurate population estimate and monitor trends over time. In 2014 we also deployed two satellite tags on nesting green turtles to learn more about their migratory patterns and the location of their feeding grounds. By coincidence, both of the satellite tagged turtles became film stars in their own right! A team from National Geographic joined us in the field to film the deployment of a satellite tag on a nesting turtle in Mnemba Island, Zanzibar and a production crew from Kenya spent a week filming our work for a feature on grass roots organisations in Africa. The latter was shown during UN week in New York in September. What great recognition for Sea Sense!

Our network of community Conservation Officers patrolled nesting beaches every day in six coastal districts and recorded 313 green turtle nests. 171 nests were relocated to a safer area to protect them from predators (monitor lizards and mongoose), poachers and tidal inundation, and 25,032 sea turtle hatchlings safely reached the sea to begin their long journey to adulthood. 135 turtle strandings were recorded by Conservation Officers which were a result of entanglement in fishing gears, dynamite fishing and deliberate slaughter for meat. We piloted our first ever ‘at sea’ bycatch observers programme in Temeke District. Turtles were captured in a third of all gill nets set by the fishers over a three month period (117 sets). All but one of them were juveniles and almost half were dead by the time they were found.

2014 saw the continuation of our efforts to conserve whale sharks in Mafia Island through better management and regulation of the growing whale shark tourism industry. We worked with the tourism sector to promote a Code of Conduct for whale shark excursions, trained boat captains and crew in whale shark biology and conservation and produced a briefing pack for guests participating in whale shark tourism.

Our education programme went from strength to strength with marine conservation and waste management education programmes delivered in 10 secondary schools across the coast. Sea Sense staff also delivered lectures on sea turtle, dugong and whale shark biology and conservation to students at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) and the Fisheries Education and Training Agency (FETA). Community events were held on World Environment Day, World Oceans Day, World Sea Turtle Day, International Coastal Clean-up Day and World Fisheries Day. Community theatre projects were held in 14 coastal villages, delivering conservation messages to more than 7,000 people. A six month radio campaign was launched on Pangani FM and covered a range of topics including community stewardship of marine resources, waste management and the impacts of illegal fishing.  Sea Sense visited migrant fisher camps in Mkuranga, Mafia Island and the Rufiji Delta to promote compliance to the Tanzania Fisheries Regulations. Awareness materials including posters, booklets, t-shirts and khangas were distributed in 43 villages across six coastal districts.

In 2014, our capacity development programmes focused on community fisher associations known as Beach Management Units (BMUs). 36 BMUs across five districts were trained in the ecology of marine ecosystems, basic fisheries economics and governance and accountability. A further six BMUs in Pangani District were trained in data collection, resource assessments, monitoring and surveillance techniques and the development of resource action plans. A group of 80 female fish traders in Temeke District were trained in fisheries economics and governance and accountability.

Our sustainable livelihoods programme supported two key projects: sea turtle ecotourism and flip-flop recycling. During 2014, USD 6,530 was raised through sea turtle ecotourism, half of which was donated by Sea Sense back to coastal communities supporting the initiative, to promote the economic benefits of wildlife conservation. Our flip-flop recycling project continued to generate interest amongst villagers in Juani Island, Mafia, where our original flip-flop artisans trained an additional six villagers who are all earning supplementary income from flip-flop recycling.

Finally, our governance and leadership programme targeted local government bodies (village and district councils) and District Council Management Teams. We focused our efforts on building stronger relationships between elected leaders and the citizens they represent, and promoting good governance principles. We also lobbied for a greater commitment to enforcement of laws protecting marine resources and held three marine legislation seminars targeting law enforcement agencies and the judiciary. Sea Sense also played a key role in the draft of national guidelines for the management of migrant fisher camps in collaboration with Fisheries Development Division (Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development) and WWF.

In between all of these highlights, Sea Sense also presented papers at the International Sea Turtle Symposium in New Orleans, represented the Western Indian Ocean Marine Turtle Task Force at the 7th Signatory States meeting of the Indian Ocean South East Asian Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding in Bonn, Germany, participated in the Social Good Summit as part of UN week, published three manuscripts in the African Sea Turtle Newsletter, launched a new Five Year Strategy, attended a training course in Behavioural Change Communications, facilitated a climate change workshop with WWF, participated in a national Nane Nane exhibition, hosted two UDSM students on a two month field placement, supervised the construction of a community latrine in Chunguruma village in Mafia Island, and contributed to a national tuna management strategy and anti-dynamite fishing strategy. Phew....what a year! 2015 looks like it will be just as busy!! Thank you to all of our donors and supporters. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Friday, 16.01.2015 13:24 13:24 Age: 4 Years

Expected Green Turtle Hatching Dates in January 2019

16th & 24th
South Beach
Mafia Island

Did you know?

A female dugong (cow) produces a single calf every 2.5 to 5 years, after a gestation period of 14 months.