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Overfishing is a major issue on Pemba Island, therefore understanding fish community structure is important to access the current status of the reef environment.

On Pemba, fish are an essential source of protein for local communities, but this is a resource that is declining rapidly as a result of overfishing and illegal fishing practices. Fish also play an important role in Pemba’s tourism, with divers visiting the vibrant and diverse coral reefs which in turn support fish populations. By establishing Marine Protected Areas, these fish, and their habitat, are protected, and their numbers can increase. However, we need to know how successful our protected areas are in contributing to local fish populations.

By undertaking fish surveys we are able to collect this data. Instead of using a more traditional underwater visual census swim-and-count method, the Kwanini Foundation are using video surveys to collect fish data. These dive surveys are undertaken by swimming along the reef, at the same depths, whilst videoing transects and analysing the footage back in the office.

Fish surveys are to be undertaken with a focus on a few key objectives. These include:

  • Establishing baseline data for fish abundance and diversity within the Kwanini Marine Protected Area (KMPA);
  • Monitoring any improvements or deterioration of fish populations as regulations and policing are applied to the KMPA; and
  • Providing supplementary data alongside Kwanini’s reef restoration programme.
  • Video surveys allow us to collect data on all fish species seen in the KMPA, instead of only focusing on a select group of species. It also means that we can survey larger areas of the Marine Protected Area as it is quicker than other underwater count methods. Video footage can also be used to get information on the type of substrate along the transects for further analysis. These fish surveys are undertaken four times a year at four locations – deep and shallow transects within the KMPA and deep and shallow transects just outside in a buffer zone. Completing transects inside the KMPA and buffer zones means we can get data about the fish populations inside our Marine Protected Area and compare that to areas outside of the KMPA to test how successful protected areas are in contributing to local fish populations.

    Kwanini is also hoping to undertake sizing analysis of the surveyed fish. At present, we don’t have the equipment available to do this, but if we are able to obtain the necessary equipment this would allow Kwanini to gather important data about fish recruitment and biomass within the KMPA.

    As part of our wider monitoring programme, the fish surveys are designed to coincide with the Kwanini’s Foundation coral monitoring. Invertebrate surveys, focusing on species that eat coral such as crown of thorns starfish, are also undertaken at the same time as the fish surveys by a second diver.
    Here’s how you can support our fish surveys:
  • Donate to help fund the additional equipment needed to complete biomass and recruitment analysis.
  • Sponsor a 5m x 5m area of our reef restoration – coral reefs support the fish populations in the KMPA and through the coral restoration efforts we hope this will increase fish numbers.
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