Destructive fishing practices on Funzi Bay

The remains of a large female green turtle was found slaughtered on the south shore of Funzi Island on Tuesday 17th of October. The meat had been removed, probably at sea, and the cadaver was dumped to be taken taken to shore by the waves. This was the first time we encountered this type of incident, which is not very common nowadays. All local fishermen here on Funzi Island are aware that poaching sea turtles is both illegal and immoral.

This incident coincides disturbingly with the presence of few large motorboats who are using ring nets just off shore on Funzi Bay. This non-selective fishing method is extremely harmful to the marine ecosystem. Recently, it also became illegal in Kenya. A ring net will catch everything within its width, with no consideration to what species are harvested and to the size of the individuals caught. When used around coral reefs, ring nets are known to cause massive destruction.

The local people in Funzi are powerlessly watching this destruction occurring on daily basis in their own fishing waters. The unwelcome fishermen operate in large groups, with up to 30 roughnecked men on each boat. It is said that each boat can catch up to 5 tonnes of fish a day. The crew often originates from other areas, even from as far as Tanzania. Their understanding of the conditions in the marine ecosystem here is very limited, and their incentive to brutally exploit the fish here is clear – each fishermen earns about 7000 Kenyan shillings a day (roughly 70€). At least three of these vessels have been exploiting the water around Funzi during the last month. Trying to chase away such a fishing boat from the area might en up in a violent conflict.

Fish in Funzi is an important resource. It is an absolutely vital protein source for the islands’ inhabitants and provides a well-needed income for the fishermen. According to experienced fishermen, the landings of fish have been rapidly declining during the last years. The activities witnessed around here will certainly have a negative impact on fisheries and are endangering both the ecosystem and the people relying on it. This, in turn, will certainly make life even more difficult for sea turtles. In addition to habitat destruction and the higher risk of getting caught in nets, there is an overhanging risk that even local fishermen will go back to poaching turtles in the absence of fish. Since this fishing occurs on such a large scale, it is up to the local authorities to take action. The local fishermen can not protect the environment by themselves.

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