Bombing for Fish? Care2 Petition Calls for End to Tanzania’s Horrible Fishing Practice
Some fishermen use poles. Other fishermen use nets. In Tanzania, though, the fishermen use bombs. Itís strange, but as National Geographic reports, itís true: Tanzanian fishers are dropping explosives into the ocean. Now the Care2 community is calling on the Tanzanian government to intervene with a petition.
Officially, ďfish blasting,Ē as it is better known, was outlawed in the country 45 years ago after becoming popular in the 1960s. The illicit practice has picked up again recently, however, thanks to Tanzaniaís mining boon, which has made explosives more readily available. Comprised of fertilizer and kerosene, the bombs are capable of killing everything in a 65 feet radius.
Fish blasting can be surprisingly efficient, depending on how you measure efficiency. After an underwater detonation, fishers can scoop up hundreds of dead fish that float to the surface, far more than their nets are capable of snagging with live schools. On the other hand, the majority of the dead fish actually sink to the bottom, meaning that most of the fish killed by this method donít actually make it to the boat. With our oceans already critically overfished, itís unproductive to unnecessarily deplete the population further.
Sadly, itís not just the fish that suffer Ė itís also the coral. Coral reefs are already actively dying out thanks to the effects of climate change. Dropping bombs into the reefs only ensures that coral Ė and the marine life that call coral reefs their home Ė will disappear faster.
While itíd be unfair to say that Tanzania is the only country to engage in fish blasting Ė the island nations of Asia, for example, see their share of rogue fish-bombers – it is the only country that still does so at such extreme rates. Marine biologists discovered the prevalence of fish blasting essentially by accident. While trying to record the sounds of whales and dolphins, they wound up documenting a number of explosions in the water instead. Going through the tapes, the scientists counted over 10 blasts each day. They expect that this figure is far lower than the actual rate of occurrence since they were recording in deeper waters and most blast fishing tends to take place closer to shore.
Unchecked, blast fishing jeopardizes the incomes of fishermen who employ lawful techniques to catch their fish. For starters, the bombs decrease the regionís fish populations overall, leaving fewer fish available for them to catch. Furthermore, blasting helps illicit fishers to catch so many fish in a short amount of time that it floods the market, lowering the price grocers will pay for fish. As a result, other fishers feel pressure to start blasting just to stay competitive and paid.
While other African coastal countries have had success in eradicating fish blasting, Tanzaniaís efforts have been subpar. Though the Tanzanian government recently publicly recommitted itself to stopping fish blasting, it will require vigilance and harsh punishments on the part of the country for it to have an effect.
By Tanzanian law, offenders can receive at least five years in prison for blast fishing, but very few fishers ever get saddled with a sentence even close to this harsh. Additionally, the vast majority of the blasts that marine biologists recorded occurred between 9am and 1pm, which means that fishermen are clearly doing it in daylight with little fear of being caught. There needs to be an active patrol on the water in order to dissuade fish blasting from continuing.
Thatís why the Care2 community is petitioning the Tanzanian government to follow through on its commitment by allocating money and manpower to ending fish blasting. For the safety of the fish, the coral reef and the health of the nationís fishing industry, itís imperative that officials put a stop to these amateur ocean explosives.
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