Incidental Catch in Guinjata is Out of Hand

Posted on: April 3rd, 2013 by Hannah Darrin

Over the course of February gill nets continued to wreak havoc in Guinjata, with incidental catch being landed at an alarming rate. The legal 100m gill nets are capturing everything that swims by and leaving bystanders to wonder what will be left?

Incidental catch or bycatch, is fish caught unintentionally by a fishery. In industrial fisheries, this catch is often discarded, but in subsistence fisheries as we see along the Mozambican coastline, all of the precious animal protein is used to feed the local community. In our interview with fishermen in the area, they told us that they aim to catch  “tuna, ‘cuda, prodigal son, dorado, lemon fish, red roman, snapper, king fish, job fish and parrotfish”, but the reality of what is found in their nets is quite different.

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Adam Baugh, witness to the finning of the great white and our set of Eyes on the Horizon in Guinjata, that has supplied us with the numbers of fish caught in the nets each morning. The count this month, up until the 27th of February was as follows:
·      64 pelagic fishes (of the aforementioned species)
·      50 bony reef fishes
·      45 hammerheads (none of which have reached maturity)
·      9 reef sharks
·      1 Zambezi shark
·      1 guitar shark
·      6 cownose rays
·      25 devil rays
·      1 pregnant female reef manta ray.
This means that of the 202 fish caught 138 individuals are considered bycatch, that’s 7 fish out of 10.

Sharks and rays are long-lived animals and give birth to only a few pups a year, which gives further cause for concern. Most recently, a reef manta ray that was caught aborted its one fetus after being pulled up in the gill net. Manta rays have a very conservative output as they generally only give birth to a single pup at a time, every two to three years. Over their lifetime, this only adds up to five to fifteen pups.

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Of the bony fishes that were caught only 66% was made up of the ‘target catch’, and the rest were reef fishes of a lesser value to the fishermen. The gill nets that are used are placed close to reefs and in corridors that the larger migratory sharks, rays and pelagic fishes use. The indiscriminate method can pull up anything including the protected dolphins, dugongs and turtles. The fishermen claim to have bought all the net’s materials in Maputo for 12,000 mzn ($400 US). They nets are 100m across, set reaching east to west, float on the surface and reach the bottom, the mesh size is approximately 8 cm from knot to knot. This size and style of net is completely legal.

This information is indeed shocking and at Eyes on the Horizon we aim to create these reports so that more people along the coastline can be aware of what is happening. We will be sending this report to the local fisheries directorate, and cooperative leaders. You can help us by forwarding this report to your local fisheries official in Mozambique. Or you can help us at Eyes on the Horizon as we continue to our campaign to end unsustainable fishing practices, such as that of the inshore gill net. Thank you and keep your Eyes on the Horizon.

Also stay tuned for our next special edition report with a follow up investigation into these rapacious gill nets.