In addition to this life-sustaining role, a decline in live coral cover also poses a significant threat to local livelihoods, food security, commercial and subsistence fisheries, tourism, and associated industries within the Blue Economy.
The pressures on Zanzibar’s reefs mirror those threats facing coral reefs around the world: increasing water temperatures resulting from climate change, tropical cyclones, destructive fishing practices, plastic waste, unregulated tourism and coastal development. In the face of these factors, what is the role of reef restoration? The Coral Reef Consortium explains it like this:
Coral reef restoration can help span the predicted gap between the present when existing coral populations are threatened with extinction, and a future ocean that is hospitable again to corals.
In September 2021, the Oceans Without Borders’ Mnemba Island Community & Conservation team started their intensive and comprehensive training course with Marine Cultures, an NGO supporting small-scale ecological aquaculture conservation projects in Zanzibar.
This partnership with Marine Cultures will have a broad reach: we will build on our shared experiences, integrating lessons learned from the OWB Coral Reef Restoration Project, and actively engaging local communities around reef restoration.
Through these close collaborations, we are working to restore the ecological integrity of our local Mnemba Island reefs, inform the management and protection of this marine conservation area, and ultimately support the sustainability of local reef fisheries.
An accessible and suitable area of a local reef, often referred to as the Mnemba House Reef, was selected as a living laboratory for the project. From an initial five coral tables used to cultivate the coral fragments, there are now 42 tables.
This is when the first coral colonies grown in this flourishing coral nursery were transplanted onto degraded sections of the local house reef. The effectiveness of coral clips to secure the introduced corals is also being tested as part of this restorative phase. To ensure biodiversity and genetic integrity, clusters of 4 – 5 pieces will be transplanted together onto different reef sections.
At this crucial point, the funding to create a second reef site is exactly what is needed to reduce pressure on the Mnemba House Reef and encourage the new coral growth.
To date, 7 193 micro-colonies have been transplanted onto degraded sections of the Mnemba Island House Reef.
In the expansion phase of this coral reef restoration project, an artificial reef structure has been established at a suitable site, identified in collaboration with island communities.
Six constructs – 3 starfish, and 3 turtle shaped – have been constructed and deployed at the new site, before anchoring these structures with a filling of large quarry stones.
The artificial reef remains within the Mnemba Island Marine Conservation Area (MIMCA), which allows for the local communities to still receive revenue generated from tourists on Day trips that visit the reef.
This additional reef site will not only reduce the current pressures on the Mnemba House Reef, but also support the growth of 1,580 coral colonies transplanted from the coral nursery onto degraded sections of this house reef.
The way ahead for this project holds the promise of a far-reaching legacy of research, education and new opportunities within the Blue Economy of Zanzibar.
1 580 micro-colonies from the Mnemba Island coral nursery have been transplanted onto these six new constructs, which are developing into thriving reef habitats.
“Restoring the balance” is the focus of the Oceans Without Borders’ five-year programme strategy across the Mnemba Island seascape, in collaboration with andBeyond, local stakeholders and Zanzibar’s Ministry of Blue Economy & Fisheries.
January 2024 finds this team ramping up the coral nursery to accelerate the restoration the the Mnemba House Reef, developing the existing and new artificial reef sites, and conducting reef health and biodiversity monitoring at key sites, using the additional resource of “BRUVS” (Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems) on reefs deeper than 50 m.
Their land duties include conducting regular beach erosion surveys, and interactive community time, sharing environmental learnings with local communities, boat operators and fishermen.
As a marine scientist, I emphasise that advocating for ocean conservation isn’t solely for the marine ecosystem, it’s essential for human welfare.
Washington is a dedicated marine scientist committed to enhancing ocean well-being and supporting coastal communities. He believes that collaboration and is key in marine conservation, and elevating communities’ livelihoods is one of his top priorities. His project experience includes mangroves, coral restoration, fishery sustainability, and value chain analysis along the Tanzania coast. He is passionate about ocean health and actively contributes to the Western Indian Ocean Early Career Scientists Network. He is an advanced diver and holds a BSc. Honours in Aquatic Science and Fisheries, from the University of Dar es Salaam.
Young people wanting to be marine rangers must have a love for marine environments, and ideally have some experience interacting with marine life.
Hija was an active member of his high school’s environmental club and graduated with several awards including an Environmental Certificate. He went on to do a Intercultural Relations Diploma at Tumaini University, Dar es Salaam, before working as a young entrepreneur. His passion for the environment made him a strong candidate for the position of an Oceans Without Borders’ Community and Conservation (C & C) marine ranger.
Marine rangers have the chance to write the future. They’re environmental revolutionaries, “doctors” of the ocean, of the animals and island communities.
Haji has always had an interest in conservation. Following his completion of high school, he completed some short courses in computer science, management, and conservation before taking up a position as a receptionist in a small hotel. When he saw the Oceans Without Borders’ advertisement for a Community and Conservation (C & C) marine ranger, he was quick to apply and started his training following a successful interview.
Marine rangers play an important role in the conservation of marine and island resources, and the environmental awareness of local communities
Nassor joined the Mnemba Island Community & Conservation ranger team in April 2023. As a marine ranger, his duties include a range of sea and land activities including coral reef restoration (his special passion), the development of newly-deployed artificial reef sites, beach erosion and reef surveys, turtle nest monitoring, and driving environmental education.
The more variety of corals we cultivate, the better. This both preserves and promotes essential biodiversity in the reforestation of the reefs.