Bonthe Fish Sampling

In the Sherbro River area the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) is working with the local communities to create a co-managed MPA. The government already has restrictions about the net size that can be used when fishing in Sierra Leone (the mesh can’t be less than 2 finger width) and in the estuary only non-mechanized boats can fish. Even though there are restrictions in place, my few days looking at fish here have given me surprising results. The catches here are small – sometimes only 1-5kg of fish for every haul of the net. We saw a fisherman today who set 550 hooks and caught only 3 catfish. (In contrast, the catches are much larger in John Obey, which fishes on the ocean, but also fishes with sometimes smaller mesh.) It’s a great step forward that the councils and chiefs here are cracking down on the net size enforcement and it’s a step in the right direction to help fish populations recover.

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Side trip to Bonthe

On Thursday the fishing village caught some big fish – a stingray that
was probably 4 feet long and wide and a fish they call Spanish that
weighed more than 50 lbs. After seeing these fish I started traveling
South to Bonthe Island to work with the Environmental Justice
Foundation (EJF) for several days. I tagged along with our shopping
crew on their truck ride to Waterloo market then hopped into the EJF
4×4 and we drove to Yaboi. It was some rough road that was flooded in
parts, as the wet season has just ended. It was an adventure and a
great way to see the country. We then hopped into EJF’s brand new
patrol boat to cross over to Bonthe Island. It was an entire day of
travel, but it’s a nice change of pace here in Bonthe. Later today I’m
heading out to York Island to observe their fish catches and see how
we can bring some logbook and community science to this region, to
help inform the marine protected areas that are going into place. I
went to the fish market this morning in Bonthe and was happy to see
the same fish as those in John Obey, as I’ve learned almost 50 local
fish names now and those will hold true here as well.

freetown/bonthe island

Photo by Google Maps

Night of the Turtle

One night this week we had a representative from the Conservation
Society come to check on a turtle nest a villager had discovered on
the beach in John Obey. Sierra Leone has green, hawsbill, olive
Ridley, leatherback, and loggerhead turtles and may have 2 other
species in its water as well. They confirmed it was a green turtle
nest by counting the plates on the shell of a hatchling turtle.  That
night the turtles were given a little help to crawl out of the nest,
and at least 1 made it to the sea. The others were most likely eaten
by crabs, as egg shells were in the nest but turtles were not. We all
took a moment on the beach at midnight to reflect on the beauty and
sadness of that moment with only one confirmed making it to the sea,
but the mood turned hopeful for the second nest that is on our beach,
and has been there 30 days. We’ve heard the turtles should hatch
between 40-60 days, we’re all hoping it’s before we leave.

Turtle

Thanks to Meredith for this great photo!

Fish, nets and more turtles!

Yesterday started with my alarm going off at 7am to go check the first
catches of the day. The boats weren’t in yet so Perfet and Ali showed
us how to mend the holes in their fishing nets. By the end I got the
hang of it and I can now add net-mending to my beach skill set. I went
to Waterloo after breakfast to buy a cell phone for my work in Bonthe
in a few days, which took most of the day, so very little fish work
happened yesterday.

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A Visitor from the Sea on Day 1

This morning we were met with a wonderful surprise. Around the corner
from the fishing village, a fisherman carried a turtle over to us. He
said it had been caught in a net and needed to be released, as it was
not legal to keepTurtle. The turtle was placed on the beach for the ultimate photo-op, then I put him into the sea and he swam away. A fantastic start to a vacation for anyone, especially a marine scientist.

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