The distribution of fishponds in the country is determined by several factors such as availability of water, suitable land for fish farming, awareness and motivation within the community on the economic potential in fish farming.
Although very profitable internationally, shrimp farming is still in the experimental phase in The United Republic of Tanzania, a number of private companies have acquired plots and permits for the culture of shrimp. Shrimp farming has the potential to be a profitable activity in The United Republic of Tanzania but there are widespread concerns about its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts based on observation of the global industry.
In recent years seaweed farming has become popular in some coastal areas as a means of income generation. Small-scale seaweed farms on suitably selected sites, some of which are run by groups of women and youth, are scattered along the entire coastline of the country, from Tanga in the north to Mtwara in the south, and in the islands of Mafia and Zanzibar. Seaweed cultivation has rapidly emerged as one of the major cash crops in Tanga and Zanzibar, producing enough income to cover household costs. The species farmed are Kappaphycus cottonii and Eucheuma spinosum. Kappaphycus cottonii is believed to be indigenous while Eucheuma spinosum and E. striatum were originally imported from the Philippines. There is also potential for the farming of other seaweed species such as Glacilaria.
Water reservoirs constructed for use in homes or for livestock, irrigation and factories or for flood-control were stocked with tilapia. This practice started in 1950 and by 1966, 50 percent of the reservoirs in the country had been stocked by the Fisheries Division. In 1967, the government launched a national campaign on fish farming which was unsuccessful, again due to improper management. In 1972, aquaculture was, for the first time, given some importance in the fisheries policy. After that aquaculture was included in the Fisheries Policy, although always as a low priority sector. Several small aid projects have been directed towards the development of aquaculture in the country but have not had the expected success. Interest in mariculture began with early investigations of seaweed farming including work by Mshigeni who introduced the concept from the Philippines. The first seaweed farms in Zanzibar were started in 1989.
The United Republic of Tanzania has a good potential for development of mariculture. In 1996 a survey was conducted along the entire coastline for selection of a preliminary shrimp culture site, with support from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The findings indicated that the country has a big potential for shrimp culture which can be developed from the northernmost region of Tanga to the southern most area of Mtwara. The total area identified as suitable for shrimp farming was 3 000 ha from which potential production was estimated at 11 350 tonnes.
However, seaweed farming is so far the only form of mariculture which can be considered an established success in The United Republic of Tanzania.
There are a total of 14 100 fish ponds scattered all over the country with differing potential from one area to another. Most farmers own small ponds of an average size of 150 m2, covering an estimated 221.5 ha. However, there are four regions which have more than 1 000 fish ponds each. These are Ruvuma (4 942), Iringa (3 137), Mbeya (1 176) and Kilimanjaro (1 660).
Use of land for fish farming is restricted to some specified areas. Where water is available its use is not a problem as it is managed by water rights stipulated under the water policy. Fish farmers use animal manure as the main source of fertilizer for their fish ponds. Most farmers use feeds such as domestic leftovers, maize bran, wheat bran, vegetables and wild grass. Production has been low due to small pond size coupled with poor management. Fish ponds are the predominant production system with only one farm using raceways, for the culture of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss).
Other species with potential for use in aquaculture include some of the other finfish and shellfish in the brackish and marine waters, such as the milkfish (Chanos chanos) and the flathead grey mullet (Mugil cephalus). In the freshwater areas these include the North African catfish (Clarias gariepinus). The culturable shellfish include shrimp of the family Penaeidae, molluscs, crabs, oysters and mussels. Trials have recently been conducted for the farming of the milkfish strain (Kuyui in Swahili) in marine waters.
Species of seaweed farmed in the country are the Eucheuma spinosum, Kappaphycus cottonni and E. striatum which was introduced from Zanzibar and originally came from the Phillipines.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Tanzania according to FAO statistics:
The New Fisheries Act No. 22 of 2003 provides for labelling and certification of aquaculture products.
At present aquaculture is largely a subsistence activity practiced by poor households in the coastal and inland areas but the benefits arising from it are several: it contributes to people's requirements for animal protein, particularly in the rural areas where there are no capture fisheries, and it provides employment opportunities and is a source of income.
The role of and support to the private sector associations include creation of awareness on the rational utilization of resources through seminars, workshops and sectoral meetings and informal training of the private sector on key issues such as fisheries resource utilization.
Several measures have been adopted to attain the objectives relating to better management. These include creation of awareness in the community on sustainable aquaculture through seminars, meetings and workshops and provision of low interest loans and a three-year tax-free period for investors in commercial aquaculture through the National Investment Center (NIC). Other initiatives include the amendment of the Fisheries Act No. 6 of 1970 to include aquaculture, development of mariculture guidelines, production of a fish farming booklet and training of aquaculture personnel at different levels.
The Fisheries Division is responsible for the formulation of policy and legislation. It is also required to provide support for the implementation and enforcement of the fisheries policy and the fisheries legislation. All these are executed in collaboration with entities such as the local government, research institutions, non-governmental organizations and the fisher community.
The government sets research priorities through the research institutions. Decisions are based on both long term criteria, for planned development, and short term requirements, such as an issue that calls for an immediate response. Government institutions are involved in setting research priorities, in funding research and disseminating research findings and in training of researchers.
Non-governmental institutions also fund research and collaborate with farmers on developing and implementing research projects and information delivery systems.
On-farm participatory research on aquaculture is not yet practiced because the industry is still at the subsistence level.
The Fisheries Division has developed a strategic plan that subsumes an action plan which is reviewed annually. Studies and trials have been undertaken to assess the viability of expanding aquaculture through diversifying production into other species, and developing the export market. The only aquaculture product exported is seaweed, which has shown an upward trend. However, the vast potential for mariculture is so far largely untapped.There has not yet been any move to integrate aquaculture with other sectors such as the environment because the industry is still at subsistence level. However, in anticipation of the projected development of commercial aquaculture and the possibilities of its negative impact on the environment several management measures have been proposed and already put in place.
FAO. 2005. Aquaculture production, 2003. Year book of Fishery Statistics - Vol.96/2. Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.
Balarin, J.D.1985. National reviews for aquaculture development in Africa: Tanzania. FAO Fish Circ., (770.7):96 p.
Fisheries Policy and Strategy 1997. Government of Tanzania, Dar Es Salaam Tanzania.
Government of Tanzania. Background document on mariculture issue profile
Government of Tanzania. 2003. Fisheries Act No 22, amendment of the Fisheries Act No 6 of 1970.
Government of Tanzania. 1970. Fisheries Act No. 6 of 1970 and No 22 of 2003
Government of Tanzania. Tanzania Coastline Survey - For Preliminary Shrimp Culture Site Selection (First preliminary report)