Dynamite Fishing in a Marine Protected Area in Tanzania: Why Youth Perceptions Matter
Young men in coastal Tanzania are often blamed for damaging marine habitats by engaging in unsustainable and destructive fishing practices, including dynamite fishing, but their perceptions have not been sufficiently documented. While marine scientists, international environmental NGOs, and activists have called attention to the destructive fishing practices’ devastating impacts, insights into the contextual factors that motivate those who engage in dynamite fishing are limited. Additionally, risk perceptions and concerns regarding the environmental impact and dangers of dynamite fishing among the youth are also understudied. This paper provides ethnographic insights into the historical and contextual factors underlying dynamite fishing in rural coastal Mtwara. It draws on ethnographic data gathered through participant observation, focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with residents from two neighboring coastal villages – one located inside a marine protected area (MPA), and another located outside the MPA’s boundary. The paper first examines the views of elderly men and women to provide the historical context of dynamite fishing in coastal Mtwara. It then juxtaposes youth perceptions regarding marine conservation and dynamite fishing in the two villages, vis-à-vis ongoing efforts to curb destructive fishing practices and to enhance marine biodiversity and ecotourism in the region. Results of the study reveal that unresolved tensions between the MPA authorities and local fishers surrounding enforcement practices and unfulfilled gear-exchange-related promises, and allegations of poor governance, are important contextual factors in the persistence of dynamite fishing. The paper concludes by articulating possible remedial measures to mitigate the tensions between youth concerns about their livelihoods, and the goals of marine biodiversity conservation as a way forward in preventing dynamite fishing.
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