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The development of Marine Parks and Reserves in Tanzania dates back to the 1960’s when surveys of marine habitats mainly reefs were conducted and several sites legislated as marine reserves in the mid 1970s. However, no specific management and institutional mechanisms were put in place to effectively manage the reserves apart from allocating the authority to the Department of Fisheries.
The desire by the villagers of Mafia district to establish a protected area in their waters in the late 1980’s rekindled the national interest in the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Tanzania. Subsequently, a number of baseline studies to investigate marine resources and their uses were conducted in Mafia. The studies identified Mafia Island as a suitable site for the establishment of the first marine park in the country.