February 26, 2009
Population of prehistoric deep-ocean coelacanth may go the way of the dinosaurs.
A port development plan put forth by the Tanzania Ports Authority recommends building a deep-water harbour in Mwambani Bay near the Kenyan border. The port would accommodate large container ships which it hopes will bring economic development to the impoverished region. But the project could "will probably wipe out the local coelacanth population" according to a 2008 assessment by the Tanzania Natural Resource Forum (TNRF), a local environmental group, due to increased ship traffic, sedimentation, and other ecological changes.
Generally found at depths exceeding 300 feet (90 m), coelacanths occasionally show up in fish markets in Africa and Indonesia, usually captured as by-catch by fishermen seeking deepwater species. The critically endangered fish is believed to be sexually mature at 20 years and live to 80-100 years old.
TNRF says the Mwambani Bay port project may be unnecessary. A nearby port at Tanga Bay is only half utilized and upgrading this existing port would only be a fraction of the cost of new construction at Mwambani Bay.
Quirin Schiermeier (2009). Harbour threat for coelacanths. Published online 23 February 2009 | Nature | doi:10.1038/4571063a
Tanzania Natural Resource Forum, Arusha (2008). Does Tanga need a new harbour at Mwambani Bay?