Producing a marine conservation territory in a global periphery: the ongoing struggle of a southern Tanzanian marine park

Authors: Dana Baker*, Duke University
Topics: Coastal and Marine, Africa
Keywords: Conservation, Development, Marine Protected Areas, Resistance
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 24
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The recent push to meet global marine conservation targets has significantly increased the scale and scope of marine protected areas (MPAs) worldwide. Often the benefits derived from MPA establishment are optimistically framed as a “win-win” for both marine biodiversity and for coastal communities. However, the processes used to produce and to maintain MPAs can challenge how people interact with marine resources and can overlook prior claims of control over ocean spaces. As such, the social outcomes of many MPAs remain the subject of widespread critique and often spark resistance within and among MPA communities.

This presentation will discuss findings from research conducted with small-scale fishers (SSFs) living in Mnazi Bay-Ruvuma Estuary Marine Park (MBREMP), Tanzania. Fieldwork occurred over 2019-2020 and used a site-specific study design. Data collection methods included: 140 semi-structured interviews, document analysis, and structured observation. Findings illustrate how the state has mobilized the idea of nature conservation to extend control over, and to discipline, people in a geographic and political periphery. Processes of boundary-making, ecological zoning, and the top-down enforcement of new rules and regulations has reshaped social-ecological relations and has produced ongoing, often violent conflict between park residents and state authorities. The strategies of resistance mobilized by residents are materially and politically motivated and are often woven into moral statements about the customary right to resource access. The presentation will conclude with a discussion on how Tanzanian MPAs serve as an incomplete, yet powerful example of how the state has produced a marine conservation territory.

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