The Fish Community of Misali Island: Recommendations for Conservation Management and Implications for Mixed-Use Conservation Areas

Stuart Jones, SIT Study Abroad

Tanzania-Zanzibar: Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management


Misali, an uninhabitated island near Pemba Island off the Tanzanian Coast, is a historic biodiversity hotspot and was at one point home to 80% of the coral species in East Africa. However, it has been nearly 10 years since any formal, published study has examined the fish or coral communities around the island, and new information is needed to inform local conservationists and fisheries managers. It was discovered that, despite a severe bleaching event in 1998 with (80% mortality) and long-term budgetary neglect, Misali’s fish community has remained fairly healthy and diverse, with over 200 species of fish observed within the limited scope of the survey area. An analysis of ordinance and beta diversity also strongly suggests that the island is home to a wide variety of habitats with distinct fish assemblages, and that the fully protected but unenforced non-extraction zone (NEZ) encompasses only one small part of the diversity of the greater Misali ecosystem. Futhermore, this zone is home to the highest abundances of fish, including several important commercial families. The NEZ’s current boundaries, therefore, are not only insufficient to protect the largest possible swath of diversity on the island, but also imposing an undue burden on local fisherman by depriving them of the most productive fishing ground. If these boundaries were more stringently enforced, these regulations may also endanger Misali’s fish stocks by concentrating fishing pressure on the other areas that may have been least able to support it. This study recommends that further research be done on the biodiversity and distinct habitats within Misali, and that the boundaries of the NEZ then be redrawn to encompass more of this diversity while opening up part of the current NEZ, and its productive fisheries, to local artisanal use.