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.
I’ve identified 16 species of fish here – much less than the 39 so far
in John Obey. I will learn more about each species at home – how long do they live? How fast can they grow? What’s their maximum size? What habitat(s) do they utilize? This information should be able to help guide some community science that is set to begin here next year. The premise is that if the local fishers help collect the data, when the information is analyzed and results are presented to inform the MPA creation they will be not only motivated stakeholders but hopefully even understand some of the patterns before the results are presented.
The fish guide I’m making is up to 50 species already and we’re hoping to add the names in Mende – a local language spoken here – so the guide will total 4 languages: Krio, Mende, English, and their scientific Latin name.
The first photo here shows us in the EJF boat right next to a canoe with its catch. As you can see most of the fish are of one type – in Krio they are called Guangwa. Pseudotolithotus elongates, a type of croaker. There’s also blue crabs and a big bonga, Ethmalosa fimbriata, a clupeid.
The second photo shows a comedic performance we had today when we talked to fishers in a canoe called “small fish, big net.” Even though the fishers are using large net sizes they still catch small fish sometimes. It’s not the intention when using these nets, but perhaps the gill or fin of the fish became hooked so that it was still caught using this large mesh net.