Project Goal 

Supporting the Mafia Island Marine Parks authority to protect Mafia’s marine life and to work with local 
communities to ensure their use of marine resources is well managed and sustainable.

Project location 

Utende village, Mafia Island Marine Park, off the coast of Tanzania (approximately 120km southeast of 
Dar es Salaam)


Surveys of the biodiversity of all marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds,
   comparing various zones inside and outside the protected area and assisting the marine park authorities 
   to target their activities;
 Assessment of the effects of protection on the health of marine resources, particularly in reference to 
   coral reefs and populations of commercially important fish;
 Environmental education and capacity building in local communities, in collaboration with the marine 
   park authorities;
 Socio-economic surveys, focussing on fishing practices and assessments of the sustainability of current 
   patterns of resource use;
 Assessments of the current impacts of tourist activities in different marine habitats, in collaboration with 
   the marine park authorities;
Patrols of turtle nesting beaches;
Supporting the marine park authorities to update their general management plan;
Training of the marine park’s staff in SCUBA diving and ecological survey techniques.


Tanzania is situated on the east coast of Africa, bordered to the north by Kenya, and to the south by 
Mozambique and Malawi. It is one of the world’s poorest countries and the majority of its 45 million 
inhabitants live well below the World Bank poverty line. It contains some spectacular natural wonders, 
including Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Ngorogoro Crater and Lake Tanganyika and its forests and savannah regions 
are among some of the most biodiverse areas in the world. The plains of the Serengeti are in Tanzania, 
along with many less well known but equally important national parks. Around 40% of the country’s land
area has now been afforded some form of official protection, largely because its economy relies heavily on 
the tourism industry. 

The biodiversity supported by Tanzania’s marine ecosystems is as impressive and important as its 
terrestrial flora and fauna. Its coral reefs and diverse intertidal zones extend along the coast of the 
mainland and around its many subsidiary islands. Coral reefs are highly developed and particularly diverse 
around the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, Mafia and the Songo Songo Archipelago. 

SEE’s Tanzania Marine project was first established on Mafia Island in 1989. Mafia is 20km offshore 
(opposite the Rufiji Delta) and around 120km southeast of Dar es Salaam. Its marine habitats include 
extensive coral reef systems, mangrove forests, seagrass beds and sand flats. Coral reef coverage is 
particularly high to the south of the island. Our early surveys of Mafia’s marine life demonstrated the 
incredibly high biodiversity supported by the island’s fragile ecosystems and were instrumental in the 
establishment of the Mafia Island Marine Park (MIMP) in 1996. MIMP is a multi user marine park, which 
means that communities and tourists are permitted to use its resources, but only within certain limits and 
particular zones. 

Since the mid 1990s SEE has conducted marine research and conservation work in various other locations 
in Tanzania, including Pemba Island, Mnazi Bay and the Songo Songo Archipelago (see below). In 2006 we
returned to Mafia Island, and today we are based in Utende village which is inside the marine park. 

Mafia is widely hailed as one of the most successful marine protected areas in the world. However, threats 
to its marine life persist, both from overexploitation by local communities and from overuse by the island’s 
growing number of tourists. Thus there is still a role for conservation programmes, especially in terms of 
supporting the park’s authorities in their mission to monitor changes to ecosystem health and to design 
effective management systems. Since 2006 we have been conducting research and outreach activities 
aimed at supporting the park’s authorities to assess the efficacy of protection and of different management regimes, while at the same time building the capacity of local communities to monitor and mange the 
marine resources on which they depend.  

Past projects and achievements

Development of a management strategy for Mafia Island Marine Park, in collaboration with the Tanzania
   National Parks Authority (1989 - 1995)
   This was SEE’s first project, based in the south of Mafia Island before the marine park was 
   established. The island’s marine life was severely threatened by indiscriminate use of destructive fishing 
   techniques, including dynamite fishing. With the aid of the information gathered by SEE a participatory 
   management plan was developed for Mafia and Tanzania’s first marine park was established.
Reef surveys and resource use assessments around the Songo Songo Archipelago (1995-1996) 
   (supported by the Royal Norweigan Embassy)
Resource surveys, fisheries analysis, benthic mapping and stakeholder training in Mnazi bay, Mtwara 
   District, including an assessment of recovery rates of coral after a bleaching event caused by El Nino    
Environmental education and training and assessment of marine resources, Misali Island, 
   Pemba (2001-2004) 
   This project included training local stakeholders in reef survey techniques and SCUBA diving, 
   an environmental education programme and a survey of local octopus fisheries 
Environmental awareness raising among Mafia’s local communities, funded by PADI Aware (2007)
Comparative biophysical assessments of different reserve areas, in collaboration with Mafia Island 
   Marine Park (2009)

Project partners & staff 

SEE’s partners in Tanzania include:
The University of Dar es Salaam (with whom SEE has been in partnership since 1989)
The Mafia Island Marine Park authority

SEE’s field team is comprised of a Country Coordinator, a Principal Investigator, several Research Officers, 
Park Rangers, a Community Liaison Officer and a team of voluntary Research Assistants.