The government has announced a plan to review the Fisheries Act and regulations governing the sector to pave the way for a total ban on fish imports, especially from China and Vietnam.
Luhaga Mpina, the Minister for Livestock and Fisheries, said that regulations will be put in place to safeguard local fisheries.
“We are looking to protect Tanzania’s marine resources through proper arrangements for commercial fishing, to make it beneficial to those in the business,” Mr Mpina said.
Tanzania produces about 336,821 tonnes of fish per year, against a demand of 731,000 tonnes.
The country imports about 24,000 tonnes of fish per month worth Tsh56 billion ($25 million), mostly from China, Vietnam and other states around the Indian Ocean.
Sardines from Thailand, Kenya and Mozambique enter the local market through illegal routes.
Fishing is mostly carried out in the Indian Ocean, Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa.
Tanzania’s fisheries economy is valued at Tsh10 trillion ($4 billion). There are about 200,000 fishermen in the country, but they have poor fishing gear, inadequate technical expertise and management skills, insufficient financial resources and lack the tools to manage and control development processes.
Mr Mpina said that Tanzania’s waters have an estimated 2.7 tonnes of harvestable fish.
Tanzania also exports fish products, mostly Nile perch from Lake Victoria, sardines from Lake Tanganyika, and shellfish, prawn, lobster, crabs, molluscs, squid and octopus from the Indian Ocean.
The ministry has been looking to empower small-scale fishermen with proper training to increase their output.
The government is now encouraging fishermen to form fishing co-operative societies. It will subsidise 40 per cent of the total costs of the purchase of modern fishing facilities, including boats.
The government is also planning to bring in companies to buy large fishing ships, and establish fishing ports along the Indian Ocean coast.
A recent report from the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries states that pirates have been conducting illegal fishing in deep waters using dynamite.
A report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation says illegal fishing is rampant in the Indian Ocean, costing Tanzania $400 million annually.
The government has deployed officers to patrol the eastern zone of the Indian Ocean to control illegal fishing and prevent pirates from operating there.
Mr Mpina said the ongoing “Operation Sangara” or “Operation Save the Nile Perch” had minimised illegal fishing in Lake Victoria, especially of the Nile Perch, as well as other species that are on the verge to extinction.
Mobile courts for quick trials of illegal fishing suspects at the scene of the crime and mobile banking will be introduced to collect fines from the culprits.