admin | September 22, 2014
Along the coast of Tanzania, you can hear the dull thuds of underwater explosions. Fishers are using explosives to maximize their catch. But the rich coastal marine life is being destroyed as more and more fishers turn to illegal methods to make a profit.
Fishers light explosives and toss then overboard. The explosions generate underwater shock waves which stun fish and other marine creatures. Any fish that float to the surface are scooped up with nets and taken to the fish markets.
Experts say one blast is enough to kill everything within a 20-metre radius. But the explosions also destroy underwater coral systems, home to countless fish and other marine animals.
One worried fisherman prepares his wooden boat by the beautiful, calm waters of the Indian Ocean. His small vessel is one of the many that ply the thousands of kilometres of coastline. He says: “Blast fishing destroys the fish habitats underwater where fish reproduce. The number of fish has drastically reduced. We are not able to catch many fish like before.”
He and his colleagues have informed the police about blast fishers, but the practice continues. There is a secretive and apparently sophisticated network in place. Arrested dynamiters may be bribing officials to avoid prosecution. The fisherman says, “If they find out that you reported them they … threaten to hurl explosives on your boat, so sometimes we are scared to report them.”
Baraka Mngulwi works in the government department of Fisheries Resource Protection. His department faces a huge challenge. Mr. Mngulwi says that the punishments for blast fishing ─ up to five years in prison and a further 12 months for possession of explosives ̶ are not a deterrent. One blast can enable a catch of up to 400 kilograms of fish and a profit of $1,800 U.S. The temptation is just too great.
SmartFish is a fisheries program funded by the European Union. The program says that Tanzania is the only country in Africa which still practices large-scale blast fishing.
Michael Markovina works for SmartFish. He says that, after a series of blasts, coral reefs resemble a war-torn city. Mr. Markovina believes that blast fishing will turn Tanzania’s coastal waters into a barren wasteland.
Every morning, fishermen haul their catches to hundreds of traders in Dar es Salaam’s busy fish market. Demand outstrips supply, and auctioneers quickly sell the catch to the highest bidders.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to spot a dynamited fish. One trader says she can identify blasted fish by their loosened scales. She says, “We don’t buy them. Because of the impact of the blasts, they rot very fast … Some buyers and sellers don’t know that, so they buy them.”
Bala Gomwa is an auction officer. He says, “If you are not experienced, it’s very difficult. Out of 60 auctioneers, maybe two or three can tell.”
Mwanya Sleiman is a former blast fisher who now campaigns against the practice. He lost both hands when an explosive detonated before he could throw it overboard. He says: “My motivation was just the money I got from selling the fish, but I didn’t know about the impact it would have on me or the underwater environment.”
Mr. Sleiman urges others to learn from his experience. He explains, “I want the future generation to find a conserved Indian Ocean so that they can also enjoy the resources.”
To read the article on which this story was based, Blast fishing destroying Tanzania’s marine habitats, go to: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29049264
For more information and resources about blast fishing, go to: http://www.tnrf.org/en/dynamitefishing