Small island developing countries like Zanzibar are the curators of much of the world’s oceans.
Through their exclusive economic zones, they control more than 30% of all oceans and seas, and most of them have Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ’s) that far exceed their landmasses.
Zanzibar for example is 27,000 times the size of its land hosting considerable reserves of minerals, natural gas, fish and seafood, among other resources.
But with limited capacity to fight the effects of climate change and environmental degradation, from the depletion of fish stocks to coastal erosion, ocean plastic pollution or coral reef degradation, Small Island Development States (SIDS) are facing mounting difficulties in practicing sustainable uses of the blue economy.
In recent years, the concept of the blue economy has been embraced by international actors as a frame of reference to support SIDS in developing their economies in a way that promotes social inclusion, improves livelihoods and ensures the sustainable management of coastal resources.
It’s a concept that seeks to turn the geographical location of SIDS from a liability to an asset for ocean-based economic development.
By diversifying industries and moving away from predominantly land-based development, SIDS Zanzibar included could help create new employment opportunities.
Several SIDS have already adopted national blue economy strategies and others like Zanzibar have already established special ministries dealing with the Blue Economies.
The Seychelles Blue Economy Strategic Framework and Roadmap launched in 2018, sets the agenda for an integrated approach to the sustainable development of its ocean resources.
It was followed by a marine spatial planning initiative in 2014, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the UN Development Programme, which plans for the sustainable management and health of Seychelles’ 1,374,000-square-kilometer EEZ.
In October 2018, the country launched the world’s first sovereign blue bond, raising $15 million from international investors to finance blue economy projects, including the expansion of marine protected areas and improve the sustainable management of fisheries.
Mauritius launched its oceans’ economy road map in 2013 to tap into the potential of its EEZ by consolidating existing sectors such as tourism, seaports, fishing and developing emerging sectors such as aquaculture, marine biotechnology and renewable energy.
Zanzibar has also kept pace in strengthening the new sector of the Blue Economy.
In the 100 days since the President of Zanzibar and Chairman of the Revolutionary Council, Dr. Hussein Ali Mwinyi came to power, his focus has been on strengthening the economy.
One of the strategies he has taken is to establish the ministry responsible for Blue Economy and Fisheries Development, whose main responsibility is to oversee all economic activities at sea and the coastal area.
To strengthen the aquaculture industry, over the past 100 days, the ministry has succeeded to produce 9,364 fish fingerings mostly catfish and Nile tilapia, all of which have been distributed to the farmers.
Also, another 10,000 catfish and 7,000 Nile tilapia have been produced in the second batch.
During the period under review, the Ministry intended to produce 50,000 catfish and 10,000 Nile tilapia fish fingerings.
Abdalla Hussein Kombo, the Blue Economy Minister, told the Zanzibar Mail that since the ministry is still new, they have managed to organize a blue economy forum involving fishing stakeholders from Zanzibar and Mainland Tanzania.
During the forum, Salmini Fishing Company announced to support small-scale fishermen where each month the company will buy 5,000 tonnes of tuna after finding a new market in Finland, Turkey and China.
In addition to the company, Equity Bank has indicated a willingness to support small scale fishermen by lending them modern fishing equipment.
“I urge fishing companies including Salmini, fishermen and Equity Bank to co-operate through the existing fisheries committees in rural areas to achieve the government’s goal in the sustainable blue economy,” he said.
He said Zanzibar has more than 50,000 small-scale fishermen so there is a need for stakeholders to meet with their committees to find out the solution to their existing challenges.
The Minister said in the 100 days of Dr. Mwinyi’s leadership, the government was expected to receive the third fishing trawler- SEHEWA 3 from Sri Lanka which was to arrive on December 30, 2020.
“However, because of the Covid-19 pandemic the company that constructed it asked the government for an extension until February 24,” he said.
He said the ministry has also finalized a project proposal for the construction of a fish processing plant and has already been distributed to financial institutions including local banks.
To ensure Zanzibar benefits from the aquaculture industry, the government has signed a joint venture project with Zanzibar Aquaculture Harvest Company Ltd for fish farming at the Popo Island in North West of Unguja Island.
“The company has already been registered and was expected to be launched on January 28, 2021,” said Kombo.
Commenting on the oil and gas exploration activities in the Isles, the Minister told this paper that the draft of the oil and gas exploration regulations has been finalized.
“The government provides a space for cooperation from the private sector in order to help it to reach its commitments for the sustainable development of oceans,” he said.
“By coming together to share and talk about the blue economy and work out what works and what are the ongoing challenges, we will able to address them together,” he added.
Members of the public have praised the pace of development in the sector during 100 days of Dr. Mwinyi’s administration.
However, they said to be successful, blue economy policies and strategies must engage all stakeholders.
“In recent years, various models of community-based management of oceans and coastal resources have emerged, demonstrating the benefit of a bottom-up approach to sustainable marine development. One of them is locally managed marine areas, whereby local communities take charge of managing protected areas, and of which hundreds have been created across the Zanzibar coastal areas,” said Haji Issa Ali from Chwaka village in Unguja Central District.
He said since the marine park provides a framework for conservation and management of ocean resources, including support for coastal traditional marine protected areas, there is a need for government to strengthen these by enacting bylaws.
“Where you have grassroots communities come together and really say, ‘we are the custodians of this area and we want to manage it,’ then they really care about it, and they really move it forward, because they have already seen that their future rests with the sustainability of this system, and managing it well, so the government should support them,” said Salim Massoud from Mkokotoni in Unguja North A District.
However, one risk which at present may be the greatest barrier to private sector investment in the Isles Blue Economy relates to the impact of climate change.
“Unlike other risks, this risk is at present less quantifiable and assessable and will no doubt feature prominently in private sector business decisions,” said Rashid Haji a marine expert.
He advised the government to take advantage of the $5 billion African Development Bank’s Action Plan for Healthy Oceans and Sustainable Blue Economies which rolled to 2024 to boost the blue economy industry.
He said the action plan will provide financial and technical assistance to ocean health and marine economy projects.
As part of the action plan, the oceans financing initiative, implemented by the World Wide Fund for Nature, will work to create opportunities for private sector investments to improve ocean health.