Tanzania is lucky to have many coral reefs that support extensive fishing besides attracting tourists. However, this natural endowment is endangered by dynamite fishing that abounds in large scale.
Besides killing and injuring fish, it leaves behind rubble and broken corals on the sea floor, destroying the habitat for all reef species. Dynamite fishing is an old practice that has been common since the 1960s, and by the mid-1990s it became a matter of serious concern to environmentalists.
A high-profile national campaign involving hotel operators and the media brought international pressure and donor attention to this wanton destruction. This campaign, along with close community and peer group control, succeeded in curbing dynamite fishing to near zero levels between 1997 and 2003.
However, by the end of 2003 the practice had resumed with a vengeance. One reason dynamite fishing is rampant is that explosives come cheap and easily accessible to fishermen.
Bombs are usually sourced from mining, demolition and road construction enterprises or made at home from fertiliser and diesel. The result is that large amounts of fish and their eggs are destroyed, thus leaving no prospects of fish stocks increasing.
One blast can lead to a catch of up to 400kg of fish and a profit of US$1,800 in market sales, a lucrative short-term profit despite the long-term destruction left behind.
It seems efforts to solve the problem of dynamite fishing will be with us for a long time indeed, unless more serious measures are taken to bring it to an end. Last weekend the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) offered to give more support in effort to end dynamite fishing.
In offering to bring to an end to this menace, the TPDF is carrying out the noble duty of preserving the environment. That is what any people oriented military should be doing in times of peace. As they say, the military it is not just about war; is also about protecting the people and their heritage.