Pirates Beyond the Breakers

Today we took the new Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) vessel to the area where the river meets the ocean. This is where they stay on the lookout for pirate vessels – illegal trawlers fishing too close to shore. There is a large sandbar with big breakers that makes the crossing very dangerous, but Amara handled the boat with skill in the large waves today. These illegal vessels are a problem. EJF has tracked a few successfully but they can’t catch them all. If these large vessels are catching the same fish as the canoes, and catching the larger and older ones, they are likely wiping out the reproductive part of the population. That’s a problem if the canoes in the river are catching the smaller and younger fish – the fish populations are being harvested in both life stages. I’ve been told there’s a paper on the catches of these trawlers; I hope that it will give insight into the fishing pressure on the populations by the these industrial boats.


Beyond these breakers is where the trawlers are fishing illegally.

We stopped to talk fishermen about their catches today as well– catches weren’t good inside of the breakers. These men paddle dugout canoes into big waves with amazing skill – I’ve been in one of these boats in a river and thought I was going to flip a few times – they are tippy!  However, there might be too many fishermen for too little fish. The catches are small and the fishermen have to be on the water all day to catch enough to make a living. There’s talk of alternative livelihood training. I hope this happens – we were discussing that topic on the beach today and the only alternative livelihood that makes sense may be agriculture. Unfortunately, Bonthe used to have power but no longer does. There are no computer schools or internet cafes, so alternative livelihood training in those fields might not make sense – at least for now. But if younger men are encouraged to pursue fields other than fishing that might be the start of a long-term solution.

EJF Boat

Having a quick look for trawlers while we sample fish from the canoes at sea.

We’re taking the boat all the way back to Tombo tomorrow – I’m excited for a long journey at sea! Bonthe is a great place and I hope to return to continue this work. I’ve enjoyed my time in Bonthe and I know I haven’t even begun to realize what I’ve learned here – talking fish for 5 days straight has helped me get an idea of how fisheries work in SL quickly! Many thanks to the EJF team and everyone in Bonthe for making my time there really enjoyable and productive – keep up the great work!

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