Mafia Island — The Home of Whale Sharks.

©Simon Pierce / Megafauna Foundation

Since 1965, WWF-Tanzania’s marine programme has worked in and with coastal communities to conserve their precious fisheries and marine resources and improve livelihoods.

There are several different approaches we use to realise our different conservation goals and in this blog, I would like to focus on whale shark conservation work and why it is important in Tanzania.

We have set very ambitious goals to conserve whale sharks — each goal works to ultimately stabilize their populations in Mafia island.

One of the biggest lessons for me has been how vital understanding of whale shark biology, ecology socio-economic and environmental significance is for us to truly protect the large, friendly fish.

The presence of whale sharks in Mafian waters is like icing sugar on a already colourful biodiversity cake.

Until recently, whale sharks were not found in Mafia Island. But now, they are present throughout the year with a high season between the months of October and February.

Mafia island has proven to be a haven for whale sharks, attracting tourists, and as a result of their “FAD-like” qualities, fisher folk too.

In this regard, World Fisheries Day (November 21) has been, for the past 2 years, an excellent opportunity for us to raise awareness and promote the sustainable use and management of whale sharks and other fisheries resources in Mafia Island.

It is clear to us that whale sharks are here to stay and we want to keep it that way.

We are dedicated to working closely with local communities, government stakeholders and the private sector stakeholders to develop a sustainable whaleshark management strategy.

We will continue to raise awareness and educate local, national and international communities about across-the-board benefits of a harmonious life with whale sharks.

Most importantly, we will continue to monitor Mafia’s whale sharks; keeping an eye on them with an aim to understand them. This way, we can develop informed solutions to help us achieve this our goals.

This Fisheries Day, we want to ensure that fishers are employing best practises and methods while fishing, minimizing their potential to agitate and endanger the friendly fish.

We are excited at the possibilities and grateful to the collaborative efforts made. Join us this World Fisheries Day as we celebrate these gentle giants in Mafia Island — The Home of Whale Sharks.

Dr. Mathias Igulu is the Marine Programme Coordinator for WWF Tanzania.