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Sea Bottom Trawling destroys everything in its path

Sustainable Fisheries Programme , Watamu

Ring net Fishing Boat in Watamu Marine Reserve Illegal ring net fishing over coral reef next to the Marine Park Anti Trawling Campaign in Malindi Local Fishermen demonstrate against trawling

The marine life in Kenya's inshore waters is being decimated by unsustainable fishing methods. Commercial scale fisheries are being permitted to fish indiscriminately without recourse to the law and without adequate research into the impacts.

Whilst there is legislation governing fishing practices under the Fisheries Act, the laws are being flouted and fisheries over-exploited.

The two main commercial fisheries operating in our coastal waters are Prawn Trawling and Ring Netting. Prawn Trawling is considered world-wide as one of the most destructive methods of fishing ever devised. This efficient but highly unselective way of killing animals is practised the world over every day.

Imagine the reaction from people if a mile of net was strung between two immense all-terrain vehicles and dragged at speed across the plains of Africa. This fantastical assemblage would scoop up everything in its way: predators, such as lions and cheetahs, lumbering endangered herbivores, such as rhinos and elephants, herds of impala and wildebeest, family groups of warthogs and wild dog. Pregnant females would be swept up and carried along, with only the smallest juveniles able to wiggle through the mesh. Picture how the net is constructed, with a huge metal roller attached to the leading edge. This rolling beam smashes and flattens obstructions, flushing creatures into the approaching net. The effect of dragging a huge iron across the savannah leaves behind a shattered and bedraggled landscape. On inspection of the net, there are no markets for about a third of the animals caught because they don't taste too good, or because they are simply too small or too squashed. This pile of corpses is dumped on the plain to be consumed by carrion. This is trawling! (Adapted extracts from Glover. C, 2004 The End of the Line - How over fishing is changing the world and what we eat)

Here in Kenya, trawling is destroying our natural coastal heritage. We watch from our beaches as sea turtles, a multitude of fish, beautiful and unusual marine animals and rare corals are killed or damaged every time a prawn trawler drags its net through our beautiful seas.

Kenya has no organized commercial fishing fleet and therefore relies on fishing methods like trawling (mostly backed by foreign investors for huge financial gain from the lucrative prawn export market and with little revenue being received in Kenya) to provide commercial catch quantities.

Ring Netting is another fishing method backed by big businessmen and is equally destructive but on a more localised scale. Ring nets were designed to target shoaling migratory fish in deeper waters. In Kenyan waters they are most often used to target shoaling reef fish in our shallow coastal waters and lagoons.

Schools of surgeon fish, emperors, snappers and sweet lips are spotted by fishermen using SCUBA gears who then direct the boats to close the ring net around them taking out tonnes of fish in each haul. Decimating reef fish stocks has knock on effects for coral reefs and sea grass meadows resulting in poor health, production and eventual decay.

Our local subsistence fishermen depend on reef and lagoon fish for food and livelihood. As the coral reef and sea grass fish breeding grounds decline, recreational SCUBA diving and game fishing businesses will also decline. The loss of these businesses and a local high protein food source will have serious socio-economic impacts not just in Watamu but coast-wide.

Ring Netting is occurring almost every day in the protected Malindi and Watamu Marine Reserves often just a few hundred metres from the shore. As a commercial scale method of fishing it is not permitted by Kenya Wildlife Service in the Reserve. However, Fisheries Department issue licenses to the ring net operators, permitting them to fish without being monitored or regulated.

Since 2008, WMA have lobbied Fisheries Department to stop ring net operations in the protected Reserves and to develop management plans for all marine commercial fisheries. WMA is advocating the development and investment in small scale community operated commercial fisheries with adequate monitoring and enforcement measures in place.

We need international support and to highlight the wholesale destruction of the highly valuable Kenyan marine resource (in both economic and natural terms) that is disappearing as we write.

If you are able to help or for more information please see Contacts Page or contacts below .

WMA Chairman- Steve Trott
email stevetrott@watamu.biz
web http://www.watamu.biz/
tel +254 (0)721 275818


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