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Country review: United Republic of Tanzania

Baraka S. M. Mngulwi
Fisheries Division, Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, United Republic of Tanzania
December 2003


Tanzania is a coastal state lying between 29° and 49° East longitude and 1° and 12° latitude south of the Equator. The country is well endowed with both marine and inland fishery resources. The marine waters comprise 64 000 km2 as territorial waters and 223 000 km2 as offshore waters (EEZ) (MNRT, 1997). The length of coastline, including Zanzibar and Pemba islands, stretches along approximately 1 424 km of the Indian Ocean.

The marine coast of Tanzania has a narrow, sharply falling shelf. Marine fishing activity is generally concentrated inshore and around the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia. Fishing crafts are primarily ngalawa (outrigger canoes) or small dhow-type planked boats (mashua), and are mostly propelled by sail. The marine catch is composed of a great diversity of species, including snapper, kingfish, shark, rays, shrimps, lobsters, sardines and sea cucumbers.

In addition, a small fleet of steel- and wood-hulled trawlers and purse seiners are licensed to fish in the territorial waters (number of licenses have peaked at 24 in 2004). Trawling for shrimps and purse seining for sardines expanded rapidly in the late 1980s-early 1990s as moves towards structural adjustment and economic liberalization came into effect. The shrimp fishery is based primarily around the Rufiji Delta, some 200 km south of Dar-es-Salaam, and in areas around Bagamoyo, about 100 km to the north.

In general, fisheries resources have been regulated through the 1970 Fisheries Act and subsequent Principle Regulations.[436] However, a New Fisheries Act has been established and is waiting for official announcement. Historically, fisheries management in Tanzania has focused primarily on the great lakes, namely Lake Victoria, Tanganyika, and Nyasa, and the coastal fisheries were essentially unrestricted (although fishing licenses were required).

In the process of improving the fisheries sector, the Fisheries Division had developed the National Fisheries Sector Policy and Strategy Statement (1997), which recognises community participation in fisheries management. The policy recognises the need for private sector, community, non-governmental organisations and other community-based organizations (CBOs) involvement in the development and management of the fisheries resources. Such a policy has been applied in the lake fisheries and, therefore, was recently launched in the coastal fisheries. Such an approach will prove an integral component to the sustainable development of the marine capture fisheries.


The current National Fisheries Sector Policy and Strategy Statement (MNRT, 1997) was adopted by the Government in 1997 and are based on the overall objectives of the Government, including poverty reduction, creation of employment opportunities, increased food security, increased economic growth and sound environmental management. The main objective of the Fisheries Sector Policy is to promote conservation, development, and sustainable management of the fisheries resources and are addressed by the following 13 policy and strategy statements:

The fisheries policy fits quite well to other national policies. For example it takes into consideration the Poverty Reduction Policy (Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism 1997, p.5), government reforms and the devolution of fisheries management with the local governments (Ngwilizi, 2001). It is argued that although the current government system is decentralized, power is still concentrated at the centre that is the central government within the ministries (Masalu, 2000, p. 492).

The policy also recognizes the need for integrating fisheries into Coastal Area Management and community participation is advocated for proper management and rational exploitation of the coastal resources.

Regional and international collaboration is also illustrated in the policy statement in that the EEZ and the three Great Lakes (Lakes Victoria, Tanganyika and Nyasa) require collaborative, international management (Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism 1997, p.16).

In 1998, the Fisheries Division developed an Implementation Plan (reference?), which reflected the National Policy. This forms a basis for implementation of the Policy. Although this was a positive move towards the improvement of the sector, the Plan lacked empowerment capabilities as it is not consistent with the Fisheries Act No 6 of 1970.

In the process of operationalizing the Fisheries Policy and Implementation Plan, a step further was taken. This involved making a thorough study of the national fisheries was conducted with the assistance of the Japanese Government and culminated in 2002 with the Master Plan on Fisheries Development[437]. In the Master Plan, fifteen priority projects were indicated, seven of which specifically targeting the coastal fisheries[438]. Although not all encompassing, the study managed to bring out potential problems and identified those areas, which if dealt with effectively would bring about positive changes in the industry.

In recognizing the special issues related to the coastal fisheries and to the marine prawn fishery in particular, the Division of Fisheries instigated the development of a Prawn Fishery Management Plan with the assistance of the FAO[439]. In following a participatory approach, a series of workshops were held in which representatives from the small-scale, newly developing mid-scale and industrial sectors as well as representatives from District and National Governments; drawing on experiences from other national projects with experience in community-based management of natural resources. A draft plan was approved by the participants and is in the process of being finalized by the Division of Fisheries. The Prawn Fishery Plan mirrors the Master Plan in that it identifies issues related to the management and development of the coastal fisheries, such as research needs, increased control on fishing effort, and assisting in processing and marketing within the small-scale sector. The Prawn Fishery Plan highlighted the need to establish a National Prawn Fishery Management Advisory Committee as an apex body to advise the authority on the prawn fishery at national level. At the local/village level, it was considered very important to establish what was referred to as Village Resources and Environment Management Committees (VIREMACO).

Other relevant policies

In the Marine sector, there are several policies relevant to fisheries and may influence the development of this sector. Such policies include:

Coastal areas are known for their potential in attracting tourist activities. These activities along the coast claim areas that are vital for the coastal ecosystem to sustain coastal resources including fisheries. Construction of tourist hotels may lead to clearance of mangrove area known to be important on the sustainability of the marine ecosystem and those fisheries that rely on such habitats. In this case, the fisheries policy on its own may not be adequate in addressing issues pertaining to the sustainability of the prawn fishery.

Likewise, the Investment policy may not take into consideration the question of the maintenance of coastal marine environment in its promotion of development. Such promotion may lead to excessive deposition of industrial effluence and negatively affect the marine ecosystem and thus the fish resources theirin.

In this case, an Environment Policy becomes an extremely important tool in maintaining the natural environment through, for example, the requirement of Environmental and Economic Impact Statements before the approval of development plans. Such a policy is in advanced drafting stage in Tanzania.

Apart from the above policies, there has been an effort to develop guidelines to ensure environmental sustainability when undertaking new economic activities and include:

In the same spirit, strategies have been developed aiming at encouraging appropriate use of the coastal areas for the maintenance of all resources along the coastal area. The National Integrated Coastal Environment Management Strategy (2003) is one of such strategies.


The 1970 Fisheries Act repealed the Fisheries Ordinance Cap 295 (Mongo, 2000) that was enacted during the colonial regime. The Fisheries Act No 6 of 1970 sets a legal framework within which the fish resource would be managed, conserved, protected by protecting breeding sites, nesting sites as well as prohibiting destructive gears. Harvesting rights are defined in the Fisheries Act No 6 of 1970; however this Act has been reviewed and replaced by the new Fisheries Act No 22 of 2003 (not yet gazetted).

Since 1975, efforts have been made to manage marine reserves through Marine Reserves regulation of 1975. However it was not until 1994 that the Marine Parks Unit was established under the Marine parks and Reserves No 29 of 1994. Through this Act, two marine parks have been established and several small islands declared as marine protected areas, particularly around Dar es Salaam. In 1995 Mafia Island Marine Park was established followed by Mnazi Bay Marine Park in 2000.

Further steps are being taken to review principal regulations to accommodate new development in the industry and cater for the legal requirements of the new Act and the Fisheries Policy of 1997. It is important to note that an element of harmonizing the regulation has been considered to put into consideration the international obligations, requirements with reference to FAO Fisheries Code of Conduct (FAO, 1995). Even at local level, the Local Government authorities have considered the harmonization of legal framework particularly when developing by laws in areas where the managed resources are shared. This is important since fish does not recognize political boundaries.

Management of fisheries resources has been the responsibility of the government (Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism 1997, p.19). The main Fisheries Act and regulations thereafter empower government personnel to manage the fisheries resources in Tanzania. It is in accordance to this Act, that the government and its agencies oversee fish resource management and development.

Under the current government structure, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism formulates policies, laws and revises fisheries legislation. It has the role to ensure that the resources are managed in a sustainable way and optimally utilized for the benefit of the people. Adapted from Bulayi (2001), the formal government institutional set-up and decision-making mechanism for Tanzania fisheries is shown in Figure 1. This system involves long lines of communication and it is complex. Other government departments, which provide support services to fisheries management, include Tourism, Forestry and Wildlife.

The roles and responsibilities of “participating institutions”[441] in implementing and monitoring the National Fishery Policy are clearly defined in the Policy and Strategy Statement and are crucial in the process of making effective contribution towards coastal resources management.

Monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS)

In Tanzania, a national MCS programme, involves law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders including communities in monitoring fisheries activities. The core functions of MCS as stipulated in the law include issuing fishing licenses, prevention of illegal fishing and the enforcement of fishing gears and other restrictions particularly in inland waters.

Fisheries enforcement is done both at national and local levels where the local authorities are involved. Generally the costs associated with implementation of this mechanism are too high to be met by the government alone. In the process, Fisheries patrols have been organized and conducted in near and offshore marine waters. In both inshore (prawn fishery) and offshore waters where large vessels are involved, observers programme has been developed and implemented. In this respect, the monitoring of the prawn fishery is done through such a programme in the three specified zones. In recent years the Government has considered developing system, which would involve fishing communities in implementing MCS.

The local authorities have been developing bylaws, which are relevant in fisheries management targeting at the improvement of MCS activities.

The institutional structure and chain of decision making in Tanzania

Note: Direct linkage and fully functional from top down; Indirect linkage and not fully functional from top down.

Fisheries judicial system

The judicial system in Tanzania doesn’t provide for fisheries courts; violations in fisheries are treated as civil cases. This has been observed to be a problem in MCS system as the normal legal process is lengthy and has a record of poor prosecution and low penalties for fisheries law/regulations violations. Various attempts have been made to revise the fisheries legislation, to create deterrent penalties and to train Fisheries staff in MCS and prosecution.

Marine capture fisheries production


The Tanzanian coastline is 1 084 km long from the southern border with Mozambique to the north border with Kenya. The marine fishery is divided into Territorial waters, which extend up to 12 nm. The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) declared in 1989, which extends up to 200 nm from the shoreline (Tanzania High Commission-London 2000). The territorial sea has an area of 64 000 km2 and the EEZ area is around 223 000 km2 (Idara ya Uvuvi, 1999, p.3).

Artisanal fisheries dominate fishing in Tanzania. The artisanal fishermen produce about 90 percent of the total fish landings; while only ten percent is derived from industrial prawn fishery. In most cases the size of the artisanal fishing vessels range from 4-10 m, few prawn-fishing vessels have length between 12-25 m (MNRT 1996). In recent years the average annual fish catch in Tanzania is estimated to around 350 000 metric tons, 19 percent is marine catch and 81 percent is freshwater catch (MNRT 1996).

The contribution of fisheries sector to the economy of the country has increased for the past two decades through exportation of commercial fish and fishery products. It has been reported that, fish contributes nearly 30 percent of the total animal protein intake in the country (MNRT 1999). It is well known that prawn is one of the most important exportable products in the coastal fishery in Tanzania. However, finfish provides protein source of food to the coastal communities and contributes substantially to the nutrition status for them.

The Coastal Fishery

In the marine fishery, the near shore stocks seem to have been severely exploited. However, it is difficult to say the exact status of such stocks, as there has been no fish stocks assessment done in recent years.

With regard to prawn stocks potential, there have been various studies using various techniques: FAO estimated maximum sustainable yield (MSY) at 2 000 tonnes in 1997; South West Indian Ocean Project (SWIOP) in 1990 estimated the potential as 1 050 tonnes and in 2001 the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI) estimated MSY at 497 tonnes (Mushi and Kalikela, 2002). The number of licensed prawn fishing trawlers has steadily increased from 12 in 1996 to 24 in 2003. The fisheries statistics indicate that the catch per unit of effort (CPUE) for prawns has decreased from 610 kilograms per day in 1990 to 271 kilogram per day in 2000 and to 307 kilograms per day in 2001 (Mushi and Kalikela, 2002).[442] Most of the available data are from the industrial sector of the prawn fishery leaving out substantial quantities exploited by the small-scale operators in the fishery; underestimating the true catches and making management decisions more difficult.

Stock of prawn has shown declining trends and efficiency to the point where prawn trawler owners and their Association[443] have called for improved management within the Fishery.

Other species are also exploited but without knowing the existing stocks potential. This is one area, which the management would take serious measures and try to invest in stock assessment so as to determine the existing stocks potential in the marine fishery.

EEZ Fishery

Licensing for fishing in the EEZ began in 1998 with nine licensed vessels. Since then, the number of licenses has increased to 64 in 2004 and the available catch data show increased catches from 2 506 tonnes in 2001 to 14 917 tonnes in 2003 (source).

The fish potential production in the EEZ has not been assessed. However, licensed vessels in this fishery have indicated that a potential worth investment exists.

Fish catches from the Tanzanian EEZ fishery for 2001 - 2003


Type/species of fish caught in the EEZ (weight in metric tonnes)




Big eye














2 158

2 506


1 898







4 173

4 904



3 045



1 734



9 870

14 916

Source: Fisheries Division, Ministry of Natural Resources, Tanzania.


The Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism is the technical division responsible for management and advisory roles for fisheries management. The Division also facilitates investment within the sector by providing fishing licenses for the exploitation and general utilization of the fishery resources.

Basically the Fisheries Division continues to carry out responsibilities that have national and international implications. These include formulation of national fisheries policy and policy instrument required for the policy objectives to be achieved. Others include setting rules governing resource utilization and conservation, determine sizes and types of fishing gears which are appropriate in a particular fishery, conduct research, provide training and ensure implementation of regional and international obligations related to the sector. Management tools used in the industrial prawn fisheries include:

Additional management options and their impediments to use in Tanzania

Individual quotas

This particular management tool is not currently used in Tanzania due to the difficulty and expense of monitoring the small-scale fishers. However, the potential to use a quota system exists within the trawling sector due to the limited number of vessels and the use of a single landing site in Dar es Salaam (single or limited number of landing sites).

Territorial use rights

This system is not directly used in Tanzania. However, this mechanism is used in the coastal fish resources exploitation where prawn trawlers are restricted to areas beyond 5 m depths to accommodate the small-scale fishers.

Community rights

The 1997 National Fisheries Policy advocate for community based/participatory coastal resources management. Community rights in the fisheries industry in this country are not well defined as individual licenses proved the right to fish throughout the national coastline; therefore, migrant fishing is permitted.

Integrated Coastal Management

Other management efforts made include the establishment of programmes that aim at embarking on an integrated coastal management approach. Examples are in Tanga, along the northeast coast, where the Regional and District Government Authorities are implementing integrated coastal management focused on coral reef restoration and community-based management.

Also, integrated coastal management initiatives are being developed for Dar es Salaam Marine Reserves to address the critical problems of reef pollution and illegal fishing practices including dynamiting fishing (Salm et al., 1998). These efforts have been consolidated and co-ordinated by relevant Authorities and other institutions dealing with coastal management are the National Environmental Management Council, NEMC and training and research institutions, which include the University of Dar Es Salaam and the Institute of Marine Sciences Zanzibar (IMS). Other non-governmental organizations may also be involved on an ad hoc basis.

Fisheries Co-Management in Tanzania

Co-management is one way in which community-based resource management has been advocated for in Tanzania.

The Tanzanian Fisheries Division has designed a community-based fisheries management system, which is basically a sharing of responsibility between resource users and government, devolution of power and authorities to fishing communities, as it is thought this approach would be an improvement on the current top-down management system. Some responsibilities including monitoring, control and surveillance will be shared with the resources users (that is fishers and the fishing communities under the existing village leadership). As in Lake Victoria, where the Beach Management Units (BMUs) have the responsibility to manage and control some fisheries activities including monitoring, surveillance and control, the concept is likely to be introduced in the coastal fisheries. Given the nature of coastal marine fishery, other institutions may be introduced where applicable and need is perceived. Such institutions may require management committees. This has already been considered relevant in the Prawn fishery.

The Fisheries Division in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism aspires to devolve some responsibilities and powers to fishing communities, including formulation of by-laws, data collection, law enforcement, and monitoring as well as involving them in formulation of general management plans appropriate for fishing communities at the village level. It is believed that if fishing communities are sensitized to the benefits and responsibilities of managing their resources, they will efficiently carry out fisheries management activities.

Some fishing communities have been organized in groups in their respective fishing areas/village through a community management organization. This organization has been used as a basic unit of fisheries management at community level. Communities have been given responsibilities for managing fisheries resources at village level subject to bylaws, rules and conditions which are within the Fisheries Act. However local government authority has a mandate to co-ordinate and supervises community development activities.

In Tanzania, this is a recent move in the management and much time and effort will be necessary considering increasing public awareness on the importance and the need for collaborative and participatory resources management.

Management costs and revenues in Tanzania


Management Cost (Tsh)

Fisheries Management


Revenues (Tsh)




2 895 749 769.00




2 709703484.50


2 619 923 200

374 006 400

4 475 420 167.55


2 636 612 200

378 206 400

4 042 963 700.00


2 658 962 000

412 790 000


n.a. = not available.
Source: MNRT Budget (1996-2003)


Management activities in Tanzania include monitoring, surveillance and control, law enforcement, planning and development, awareness, capacity building, research and training.

Currently, the Division is enjoying the so-called ‘Retention Scheme’ whereby the revenue accrued from the fisheries resources rent is allocated in the annual budgetary allocation. Provisions have been made within the New Fisheries Act to establish a Fisheries Development Fund which would be a parallel source of funding to meet some development and resource management obligations.

Over the past ten years, revenues accrued to the Government from the Tanzanian fisheries have increased:


The country also implements various regional and UN conventions/agreements including the FAO Code of Conduct, which provides for better fisheries resources management and utilization, IUU, Convention of Biodiversity (CBD), UNCLOS, CITES and other relevant UN/FAO protocols.


Tanzania is party to most relevant regional and international bodies in order to meet regional and international obligations. For instance, the country is a member of SADC and has recently ratified the SADC Fisheries protocol.

Tanzania is also a member of and implements important regional and international resolutions that are made to effectively manage and rationally utilize available fisheries resources and their development, e.g. SWIOP, International Tuna Commission

Generally, the country is quite active in participating in different regional and international issues that are considered relevant in the achievement of effective marine resource’s conservation, protection and management at the same time making sure that its people enjoys and benefit from such resources.


Tanzania has attained a reasonably high stage in terms of policy formulation in the Fisheries sub-sector of the economy. Some of the reasons that lead to such advancement are as follows:

However, the status of the marine fishery resources is not well known. This does not put the country in a good position to plan for the resource utilization in an effective way and provide for better management of these valuable resources, which supports quite a good size of the coastal population.

Co-management/Participatory resource management being introduced has proved to be an effective approach in fisheries management elsewhere can also prove effective in the country. It has to be noted however that introduction of co - management is a long process with high initial cost. As it has been observed elsewhere in the world determination and awareness to stakeholders is quite necessary as it may be dangerous to assume that they all understand the approach.

In respect of achievement of the policy objectives, which are quite promising, capacity building at all levels is required. The policy reforms that are taking place within the Government has to take into consideration specific nature of individual technical ministries so that such it does not disrupt the set and end up in difficult situation. This has specific orientation to the data collection at grass root level required by the management to enable proper decision-making and better planning in the sector.

In view of the above, the following form some recommendations that are considered important in the management and development of the marine fishery in Tanzania:


Bulayi, E.M. 2001. Cooperative Fisheries Management for Lake Victoria. United Nations University-Fisheries Training Institute, Iceland.

FAO. 1995. Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Rome, Italy.

Lema, R. 2003. Community participation in the Tanzanian Prawn Fishery Management Plan. Paper presented at the 2nd workshop of the Capacity Building in Planning and Co-Management of the Tanzania Prawn Fishery Project. FAO TCP/URT/0168 (A).

MNRT. 1996. Fisheries Statistical Annual Report. Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.

MNRT. 1997. National Fisheries Sector Policy and Strategy Statement, Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania. Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.

MNRT. 1999. Fisheries Statistical Provisional Annual Report. Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania. Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.

Mongo, L.M. 2000. Custodial Management of Lake Victoria Fisheries Resources: The Design and Implication of Riparian Zones Based on Administrative Districts (Tanzania), Msc. Dissertation, University of Hull.

Mushi, V. & Kalikela, G. 2002. The Status of the Prawn Industry in Tanzania. Paper presented at the 1st workshop of the Capacity Building in Planning and Co-Management of the Tanzania Prawn Fishery Project. FAO TCP/URT/0168 (A).


[436] Fisheries (General Amendment) Regulations, 1994 (G.N. No. 369).
[437] “The Master Plan on Fisheries Development in the United Republic of Tanzania”, June 2002, Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
[438] Marine Fisheries Sub-sector Capacity Building Programme; Dar es Salaam Fisheries Infrastructure Improvement Programme; Fisheries Communities Development Programme; Fisheries Financial Support Programme; Fisheries Co-management Programme.
[439] UN FAO TCP/URT/0168 (A); Capacity Building in Planning and Co-Management of the Tanzania Prawn Fishery.
[440] Under development by the Vice President’s Office.
[441] Defined as the Fisheries Department, Local Government, Local Community, NGOs, Private Sector, Regional and International Community, and Government Agencies and Other State Machinery (MNRT, 1997).
[442] The slight increase does not mean that the stocks have increased but it could the result of an increased fishing efficiency by the trawlers not taken into account in the effort calculations. These include increased effort from 3 352 to 3 882 fishing days.
[443] The Industrial Fishing Processors Association (IFPA).

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