A survey of artisanal fishing in Eastern Africa revealed a wide variety of marine species being caught, with almost 10% of these being threatened or prohibited species.

TRAFFIC has released a report today which observed around 70000 individual marine creatures openly landed and traded at sites across Kenya, Tanzania, and the island of Zanzibar. Shockingly, 37 of 489 identified species were Threatened, Near Threatened, and CITES-listed species.

The beautiful coasts and reefs of East Africa are home to a variety of marine species that provide food security and income for many coastal communities. However, the irreplaceable ecological and economic value of these fisheries could be wiped out if current unsustainable harvesting methods and lack of enforcement continue.

During the surveys, experts witnessed hauls from artisanal fisheries containing the IUCN Red List and CITES-listed species such as Endangered Humphead Wrasse Cheilinus undulatus and Vulnerable Spotted Seahorse Hippocampus kuda. The high proportion of smaller-sized fish raise concerns of the use of indiscriminate harvesting gear, threatening reef ecosystems and species.

The report calls for governments to address differences in fishing laws between neighbouring countries that may lead to illegal transboundary fishing, loopholes and a lack of consistent enforcement. It also recommends capacity building, cross-country communications and local fisheries law enforcement training on catch regulation and marine species identification.

“By implementing the recommendations in this report, governments can better protect the keystone marine species that are important to the region’s ecosystems and communities while also ensuring long-term economic and environmental sustainability,” Camilla Floros, ReTTA Project Leader and report co-author, said.

TRAFFIC’s Reducing Trade Threats to Africa’s wild species and ecosystems (ReTTA) project has already started taking action. It is delivering a workshop with key stakeholders in the artisanal fisheries of Zanzibar, to better understand the challenges and discuss solutions. Last year, the same project installed information boards at key landing sites in Kenya and Tanzania ports to raise awareness of prohibited threatened marine species and fishing regulations.

The report highlights the importance of sustainable practices and fisheries management, marine species identification and local restrictions on catch and trade. It is hoped that the implementation of the recommendations will ensure the continued socio-economic benefits for local communities while conserving the marine ecosystems that provide these valuable resources.

Derick is an experienced reporter having held multiple senior roles for large publishers across Europe. Specialist subjects include small business and financial emerging markets.

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