Too often protected species are killed and nothing happen. People drive on the beach raising erosion and damage for the marine life and nothing happen. Illegal ad unsustainable fishing can be seeing almost daily in Mozambique. Most of people are aware of the regulations but they don´t care as patrolling is extremely rare. On the 15/11/2012 and 16/11/2012 it was different in Zavora. A fisherman was found with a huge turtle in his bag and was took to police station. Next day the police together with the Maritma came back to Zavora and confiscated all the illegal fishing nets. We would prefer that education would stop acts against nature, but unfortunately people tend to think on today rather than tomorrow and enforcement is need. We congratulation the Mozambican authorities to take actions!
We get to the beach as Yara was planning to do nudibranch survey at the rock pool with the help of Will while Sabrina would do an underwater clean up. When we get to the beach we see a small eyed stingeray dead on the net, on the side three devil rays also dead. The dead devil rays view is unfortunately very common in Zavora. Too often fishing nets are put in a place where the devil rays usually cross. Almost every day 3-4 devil rays die in Zavora victims of fishing nets. With a sadness feeling we go to the rock pool. We get a lift with the boat so we don’t need to walk with our heavy tanks. However we cannot get to the rock pool in the place that we usually do because there was a net around there, so we need to go by the north part. Bad idea. The waves are breaking there and made we roll as potatoes over the urchins. When we finally managed to get to the rock pool our bodies had some scratch and spines, but well since we were there better to go underwater and relax a bit. Nothing as the silence and the peace of the underwater world to make one happy. Big mistake! It was not at all a relaxed experience. We got to the rock pool and we counted 5 fishing nets in a 150m2 tidal rock pool! We started dive and see all these fishing nets covering and tangled in corals. Piece of corals everywhere. Then Yara looks and see a small hawksbill turtle tangled in the net, who knows for how long. She called Sabrina that is close by and both managed to free the turtle, but soon it feels its body free, the turtle swan away as quick as it could. Everybody got worry about the turtle as the rock pool is now a real trap pool, but we don´t see any signal of the turtle. After that everyone only want to take the kilos of piece of fishing nets left from another days out of the rock pool, there is no way we could concentrate in nudibranch search. In the south part of the rock pool Yara found the turtle, again tangled, this time in another net. Unfortunately Sabrina and Will were too far and could not see it. So she started to try free the turtle (without cut the net) and got tangled herself. A fisherman comes close by and she asked his help. He looks down with his mask and says that he is scared of turtle and leave. Yara managed to free herself and continuous work in the turtle when Sabrina see it and came to help. Finally Yara and Sabrina together release the turtle and decide that would be better to move the turtle out of the rock pool. When they were about to get out of the water the turtle escaped swimming as fast as it could. We spread ourselves around the nets in the rock pool, surely the turtle would get tangled again, in the end that was a trap pool. It is unbelievable - the rock pool, one of the best snorkel site in southern Mozambique , our favorite nudibranch site with lots of undescribed specie, now is not a rock pool anymore, it is a deadly trap pool full of broken corals. We continuous our search. Will finds the turtle; it is again tangled in a different net in the north. We all get there and untangle the poor animal so tired of fighting to survive. This time we must move the turtle out. Sabrina holds the turtle while Yara takes her gear out to be able to go out of the pool with the turtle, Will holds the gear. Yara gets the turtle and look to the better place to release the turtle. The turtle get some long breath. In one side out of the rock pool lays the fishing nets where the mantas died a day before, in the south site at the launching area more fishing nets. There is only one place the north area where there are too much waves for nets. Waves are better than nets. The turtle swam away hopefully far from the nets. Job done and high tide starting to come, time to leave the rock pool. What a day!
Steven – The Shark that Left a Lesson
After 3 hours surveying humpback whales I was ready for a break for my next shift in 3 hours. It was time to go home but soon I went down the stairs from our humpback whale observation site I saw two kids coming and going to the sea with a bucket full of water. These 10-12 years old children were with all their heart to save a small nurse shark still alive but dying under the sun on the sand. I looked around and asked who had fished that shark. No one answered. I asked if the owner of the net was there and nobody seems to care. I asked if I could put the shark back to the other. And one fisherman told me that it was ok ‘we don’t care’. I ended up going with dress to the water with the two kids. For more than half water we tried to recover the poor little shark. The kids named the shark Steven and tried everything they could do to bring Steven back, but it was too late, Steven died leaving the three of us with water in our eyes.
Two days later I was walking on the beach and I saw the same nurse shark on the sand. This time it was a pregnant female and was not being there for too long. The owner of the net that caught the shark was just nearby. I asked him if he would to eat it. He laughs and said ‘NO’. ‘So what are you going to do with this shark’. He said ‘kill’. And I asked for what as with a surprise he answered just to kill because we caught also yesterday. ‘Please, please let me put her back’. He said ‘If you wish, I don’t care’. I swan with the shark for about 500 meters, eventually the shark started slowly recover and when I left her she has managed to find her way to the bottom swimming graciously if she will survive, I am not sure, but I hope so. I hope she survives and move far away from us to not die in fishing net.
Such events were heartbroken but at least gave me the hope that the next generation might still able to change what our and the past generations have destroyed.
A local fisherman came to the dive center while the divers were getting ready to go to ask for help because they had caught lots of mantas in their fishing nets close to the launching area. The mantas were probably caught at night and got tangled in three different nets. The divers went out, Juan and Sabrina got in the water and managed to free one devil ray, but the rest – four mantas and 6 devil rays were too tangled and the fishermen despite of being positive to release the mantas, did not want to cut the net. Eventually after trying for a long time, the divers needed to go as the clients were getting sick on the boat and complaining. The mantas were too tangled to do anything underwater without cutting the nets, so the fishermen decided to pull the nets out of the water. Yara and Sarah were on the beach to try convince them to release the mantas if they were still alive. The fishermen agreed to release the mantas in exchange of 200met per manta. Unfortunately the mantas had stayed in the nets for too long and they were too tangled, hurt and tired and despite of showing a bit of movement they were almost dead. About 8 people together managed to turn one of the manta that were still breathing and put her back to the sea, but she was too heavy, tired and hurt, her wing were cut, her skin was red and she could barely move. There was not much anyone could do at this stage, the mantas and devil rays stayed for too long tangled in the nets trying to make their body free, probably the whole night and got too hurt to survive. From the ones pulled out to the beach only a recently born devil ray (about 13cm) where released alive. It was a very sad, frustrating and heart breaking day to everyone that where there trying to save these animals that suffer as hell for probably over 10 hours. Some fishermen were positive and collaborative to try save the mantas, others was acting as everything were a joke jumping on the top of the dead manta saying “meat, meat!”. Around 3-4 tourists were shocked taking pictures. After we could do no more, Yara started to explained the fishermen the spot pattern, the low reproduction rate, sex etc. She asked one of the fishermen who was chopping a manta to turn the belly up to ID the manta. He said that it was too heavy that he needed help so she and more 5 fishermen turned the body. Then they started to look the spot patterns and were amazed that it was true, each manta had different spots. Some of them were very inquisitive about it and we organized a meeting for next Sunday to explain more about the mantas and maybe agree in an emergency plan for next time that this happen. The meeting is booked for Sunday afternoon, we hope that it will happen and that something positive will come from this very tragic day.
Zavora Marine Lab.
Zavora Marine Lab. is the research department of the Association of Coastal Conservation of Mozambique (ACCM). ACCM develop vital research and conservation projects in Zavora, Mozambique.