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Sustainable Dolphin Tourism in East Africa

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Per Berggren



The MASMA sustainable dolphin tourism project was a collaborative research effort conducted between 2003 and 2006 with participants from Mozambique, South Africa, Sweden and Zanzibar. The objectives were to build the capacity for sustainable dolphin tourism in the East African region. Both basic and applied research was conducted to assess status and promote effective conservation and management of dolphin populations and tourism activities while accounting for local socio-economic aspects. In order to implement this, an interdisciplinary approach provided scientific information on the animals’ distribution, abundance, mortality, genetic population structure, biology, ecology, behaviour, and information on human social and socio-economic structure. The project was conducted in two geographical areas where dolphin tourism activities are ongoing in East Africa; south coast of Zanzibar and Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique. Additional studies were also conducted at Inhaca Island, Mozambique. We used questionnaires to collect data from stake-holders and local communities, boat based surveys to collect data and samples on local dolphin populations and observer programmes to investigate fisheries mortalities. The Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) was the focal species in the studies because it is the target species for the tourism, however Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) were also considered in the research conducted. Photographic identification data of individual dolphins showed limited distribution of small resident populations of Indo-Pacific bottlenose and humpback dolphins off the south coast of Zanzibar, and humpback dolphins at Inhaca. Residency was determined based on high percentages of within and between year resightings. The latest population size estimates were: 136 Indo-Pacific bottlenose and 63 humpback dolphins off the south coast of Zanzibar, and 165 Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins off Inhaca. No estimate of population size is available for the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins off Ponta do Ouro. Both Indo-Pacific bottlenose and humpback dolphins off the South coast of Zanzibar had very restricted distributions and only used limited parts of the 26 km2 study area. The results also showed that the bottlenose dolphins were socializing and foraging to a larger extent in particular areas. This indicates that these higher density areas may be important to the population, particularly for breeding and foraging activities. Genetic analyses showed a clear indication of a genetic break in the mtDNA sequence data which isolated Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins sampled off the north and south coasts of Zanzibar. This result was also supported by preliminary microsatellite analyses of a sub-set of the samples available from Zanzibar. Therefore, until additional data from nuclear DNA are available, it is appropriate to treat the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins found off northern and southern Zanzibar as separate management units when assessing the impact from bycatch, dolphin tourism and other anthropogenic threats.The life history characteristics of the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins off Zanzibar were similar to that of bottlenose dolphins from other geographical areas. This indicates that the annual population growth is limited and based on results from other geographical areas likely less than 4%. Sexual maturity, as judged by ovarian activity, developed in females older then 6 years of age and at a body length of about 200 cm. Males exhibited testicular activity when they reached an age of 13 years and at a body length of about 202 cm. Both females and males may live longer than 36 years, based on counts of growth layer groups in teeth. The observed maximum body length for females and males were 233 and 238 cm, respectively. Investigation of fisheries bycatch showed that dolphins were caught in gillnets at sites all round Unguja Island, in the Zanzibar Channel and along the coast of northern Tanzania. Six species of dolphins were recorded from 187 specimens retrieved from bycatch in drift- and bottom set gillnets between 2000 and 2006. Of these, 87 (48%) were Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus), 57 (31%) spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris), 15 (8%) Risso’s dolphins (Grampus griseus), 15 (8%) Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis), 7 (4%) pan-tropical spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata), and 2 (1%) common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins were caught primarily in the inshore waters of all areas. Spinner and Risso’s dolphins were caught in areas of deeper waters (depth >100m). Two species not previously recorded in the area were also present in the bycatch, the pan-tropical spotted dolphin and common bottlenose dolphin. Observer programmes conducted onboard fishing boats were used to estimate and assess bycatch of dolphins in drift- and bottom set gill net fisheries operating in Menai Bay, Zanzibar. Six observers were randomly placed on 14 fishing vessels from Kizimkazi Mkunguni and Kizimkazi Dimbani. The observed effort represented 23.6% and 25% of the total annual effort in the driftnet and bottom set gillnet fisheries in the area, respectively. The total annual bycatch for the fisheries was estimated to 13 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in the driftnet fishery and 4 humpback dolphins in the bottom set gillnet fishery. The estimated annual bycatch represent an annual mortality of 9.6% of the estimated number (136) of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in the area and 6.3% of the estimated number (63) of humpback dolphins (4/63). These levels of anthropogenic mortalities are not considered sustainable. An investigation of the behaviour of female dolphins off the South coast of Zanzibar in relation to different levels of tourism activity showed that they spent more time travelling with tourist boats present. Further, the results showed that movement and dive patterns of dolphins were affected by the presence of many boats and swimmers and that the presence of a few (1-2) tourist boats (without swimmers) resulted in no detectable changes in movement or dive patterns, providing that the boats were driven with care and not interfering with the heading of the animals i.e. followed issued guidelines. These behavioural changes may be short-term responses to the tourism activities which, if continued, may lead to the long-term consequence that the dolphins leave the area where the dolphin tourism takes place. The apparent changes in dolphin behaviour due to the increased levels of tourism activities may reduce the available time for important behaviours such as foraging and nursing which ultimately may reduce fitness on both individual and population level. It is therefore important to stress the need for a precautionary approach and encourage that the already introduced guidelines, issued by the Department of Fisheries and Marine Products, Zanzibar, are implemented. A socio-economic survey of the dolphin tourism in Kizimkazi, Zanzibar, was conducted by interviewing 50 boat operators, 6 restaurant managers/hoteliers, 50 local residents, 3 diving business managers and 270 tourists. The survey showed that 6735 tourists were involved with dolphin-tourism activities in 2003 representing 10% of the total number of tourists who visited Zanzibar in that particular year. A large proportion of the tourists were Europeans predominantly from the United Kingdom and Italy. The operators were aware of the guidelines for the dolphin tourism, although only 60% said they followed the guidelines. They further admitted that they did not follow the guidelines all the time because when there were many boats on the same group of dolphins, some boat operators ignored the guidelines. About 165 jobs have been created from the dolphin tourism activity in Kizmkazi making it an important contributor to the local economy. However, a large portion (up to 80%) of the income generated was profiting tour companies and/or tourist guides outside the villages. A socio-economy survey was also conducted at Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique. Fifty workers, 50 tourists and 10 tourist resort owners/managers of tourist resorts (including those offering marine recreational services) were interviewed using questionnaires. Workers included those employed at the marine recreational resorts, managers of marine recreational resorts and other people living at Ponta do Ouro. The results showed that only half of jobs at the tourist resorts at Ponta do Ouro were held by native people, and most of these were trained locally by the employers. The majority of tourists frequenting Ponta do Ouro come from inland cities of South Africa and a small proportion where from overseas. A large number of tourists believed that the swim with dolphin activity was good for various reasons, but some recognized the existence of potential negative aspects of the activity. The workers perceived the social impact of marine recreational activities differently, although the majority of workers believed that the recreational activities may affect the environment negatively. The swim with dolphin tourism provided salaries at similar levels to the diving companies, but their contribution to the local economy was low because of the small number of operators.In both Ponta do Ouro and in Menai Bay guidelines have been issued to make the dolphin tourism activities less invasive to the dolphins. The guidelines in the two areas differ in the way that they were issued and how they were formulated. The guidelines in Ponta do Ouro were issued by the tourist operator and address how the activity should be conducted. In Menai Bay the guidelines were issued by the Department of Fisheries and Marine Products, Zanzibar, and these give instructions for how boats ad swimmers should behave when interacting with the dolphins. The guidelines in Ponta do Ouro is in a way stricter than the ones in Menai Bay. For example only one boat at a time is allowed to interact with the dolphins at Ponta do Ouro and there are situations when swimming is not allowed. The decision whether or not to swim with the group is taken by the boat operator. In Menai Bay the guidelines lack restrictions both regarding when swimming is appropriate and the number of boats allowed on one group of dolphins. Since different levels of these factors cause behavioural changes in dolphins there may be a need to review and revise existing guidelines. To create sustainable dolphin tourism it is important to have an agreement between the stakeholders so that issued guidelines are followed. In January 2005, an important step towards sustainable dolphin tourism in Kizimkazi was taken with the formation of the Kizimkazi Dolphin Tourism Operators Association (KIDOTOA). KIDOTOA was registered in 2005 and is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to long-term sustainable development of the dolphin tourism in Menai Bay. The Association will focus its activities on dolphin research, education and environmental conservation. In June 2005, we conducted the first intensive training course in sustainable dolphin tourism for tour guides. The course included both theoretical and practical elements where participants were trained in land- and boat-based best practice for whale or dolphin watching. The course will be given at regular intervals in the future and participants will be issued a certificate on completion of the course.The research has showed that dolphin tourism has become important to local economies in Zanzibar and Mozambique and that there is potential for sustainable dolphin tourism in East Africa. However, the research also showed that both dolphin tourism and bycatch in fisheries pose threats to the dolphin populations. Management actions that regulate the tourism and reduce the bycatch are therefore essential to facilitate long-term sustainable dolphin tourism activities in East Africa. A draft management plan is offered as a starting point towards creating sustainable dolphin tourism in Menai Bay, Zanzibar.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Berggren P, Amir OA, Guissamulo A, Jiddawi NS, Ngazy Z, Stensland E, Särnblad A, Cockroft VG

Publication type: Report

Publication status: Published

Series Title: WIOMSA Book Series

Year: 2007

Pages: 72

Report Number: 7

Institution: Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA)

Place Published: Zanzibar


Notes: ISSN 0856-7972