Mafia Island Marine Park: a success story of inclusive governance

Mafia Island
Published: 17 June 2021
Last edited: 18 June 2021
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The Mafia Island Marine Park (MIMP) was established in 1995. It was the first of its kind in Tanzania mainland. The local community lives within the park and their livelihoods depend mostly on the park's marine resources. Before its creation, they observed increasing pressure on their fisheries resources due to migrant fishers using illegal blast and pull net fishing methods. Both the community and the government saw the need to mitigate the decline and took action. The Park adopted early on a collaborative management and inclusive governance system, as well as prioritized socio-economic benefits for the local inhabitants. MIMP is thriving, being a pristine place for fish sanctuary and high tourism hub.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Access and benefit sharing
Ecosystem services
Fisheries and aquaculture
Food security
Gender mainstreaming
Health and human wellbeing
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Protected area governance
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Loss of Biodiversity
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Infrastructure development
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of infrastructure
Lack of food security


Kilindoni, Pwani, Tanzania
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At the beginning, the village communities had negative attitude against the Park, and the level of understanding about natural resources conservation was low. The inhabitants of the islets lacked access to social services, such as dispensary or clean water supply. A large number of school dropout was noticed.

There were also a few environmental challenges, such as:

  • Increased migrant fishers using destructive and illegal fishing practices, such as blast and pull net fishing
  • Illegal coral mining
  • Excessive unregulated mangrove harvesting for dhows (fishing boats) and poles for construction


  • Octopus fishers
  • Seaweed farmers
  • Artisanal fishers
  • Pole cutters
  • Coral miners
  • Fish mongers
  • Hoteliers
  • Local Government Authority
  • Tour guide and Operators
  • Local community within the park

How do the building blocks interact?

The inclusive governance and participatory management regime of MIMP has ensured a strong foundation for community engagement in conservation and ecosystem restoration, and trustful relationship among the different management bodies and village communities. The Park provides tangible benefits to its inhabitants, who in turn participate actively in decision-making and conservation activities. Environmental education, awareness raising and alternative livelihoods trainings and development enhance understanding and interests in natural resources management. 


Communities have gained ownership on coastal and marine resources. Therefore they actively participate in: 

  • marine resources monitoring: coral reefs, fish catch, beach
  • law enforcement patrols
  • awareness raising on conservation issues through environmental education programmes

Gender well mainstreamed in conservation activities through equal distribution of marine resources and social benefits among the communities, inclusion and participatory management.

Environmental impacts:

  • Mangrove restored in depleted areas
  • 98% decrease of illegal fishing practices
  • Increased fish catch, and fisheries resources overall, for both artisanal and commercial fishers

Social benefits:

  • 670 boys and girls from poor families assisted with payment of school / college fees 
  • Village level infrastructures: 4 dispensaries (4,000 people benefit, including a health center with maternity rooms), classrooms (600-800 students benefit), more than 7 water supply (4,000 people benefit)



Mafia Island Marine Park

The Mafia Island Marine Park is a pristine place for fish sanctuary hence making it a productive fishing ground as well as a popular tourism destination. Many people from within and park vicinity depend on these marine resources for their livelihood.


But, due to an increased fishing pressure from migrant fishers who were using illegal blast and pull net fishing, the resources were starting to be depleted and caused many people to suffer. This aroused a need for an immediate solution. Both the community and government took action together.


MIMP was then established with its immediate goal being to conserve biodiversity. The first and foremost move of the park was to combat illegal blast fishing, of which 98% was eliminated, and disseminate environmental education to raise awareness on conservation issues. As a result, the community sought to collaborate with the park after they understood the goals of the park, both pro and cons.


As it strived, the park continued to benefit the community through the establishment of Village Lisaison Committee (VLC) offices in each village, and other infrastructures such as dispensaries, classrooms and water supplies.


Other ideas and recommendations for promoting conservation in the park are:

  • Increase exchange programmes to improve environmental education
  • Support the fishers in the park with high technology fishing skills and facilities to enhance sustainable fishing
  • Promote youth environmental clubs and marine conservation clubs
  • Include environmental conservation and protection in students’ curriculum.

Contributed by

Maggie Mchome Marine Parks and Reserve Unit of Tanzania