Preserving the Maritime Cultural Heritage on Pemba Island, Tanzania – Where do the fish go?
East Pemba Maritime Heritage Project team:
Mark Horton, Royal Agricultural University
Eréndira Quintana Morales, Northern Illinois University
Shadia Taha, University of Cambridge
Abdallah Khamis Ali, Zanzibar Heritage Foundation.
Abdallah Mkumbukwa, State University of Zanzibar
Laura Basell, University of Leicester
Where do the fish go?
Our ethnographic research perhaps helps in solving this riddle. In the south-east monsoon season, there were two main harbours where the fish was landed, Tumbe and Shumba Mjini and where we spent a lot of time recording interviews from the fishers. Both have fish markets; Tumbe is an impressive government building.
The government fish market at Tumbe, north-east Pemba.
There is considerable tension between the traditional fishers, who use lines and traps, and the more modern ‘ring-net’ fishers, who are seen as overfishing and reducing the catches for traditional fishers. The fish is generally landed around midday, and is auctioned for cash, to agents and wholesalers. We talked to several women who bought the smaller fish, and then resell at road-side markets. However, the larger fish were bought by the hotels and restaurants – mostly on Unguja island, as there were few on Pemba. We also learnt that many of the fishers could be away for months at a time, fishing on the mainland coast, as far away as Kenya, where they were able to sell the fish directly to the many hotels there. The Kojani fishers are well known as purse-seine net fishers, who travel huge distances, and are reported to illegally enter marine protected areas from Mafia to Malindi.
An informal transaction for a local hotel (left); preparing the latest catch for sale (right). The fish is normally auctioned in bundles that can include several species of fish.
It seems that many of the fish caught do not get to the villages where the fishers come from, but instead generate cash for the fishing families to invest in new houses, mosques or boats. At Kojani for example there is a ‘new Kojani’, where the old houses are being replaced by modern dwelling built of coral and concrete blocks. Many of the old mosques are being torn down to be replaced by large concrete buildings, and unusually the work is being funded locally.
A new mosque being built over the destroyed 18th century mosque at Wingwi. The original building was one of the of the most attractive in East Africa and described as ‘having the proportions of a Greek temple’.