Although out marine programs primarily focus on mangrove habitat conservation, we occasionally venture out a little further and into the big blue. It’s a lot more complicated and a lot more political when it comes to working with fishermen. Several NGOs and research organizations as well as local authorities have been trying for years to get the stakeholders (i.e. the fishermen predominantly) to consider forming a community managed marine reserve – i.e. an area in the Diani region which would be demarcated as a no fishing zone and allow the natural ecosystem the time it needs to recover from over fishing and the subsequent damage to coral , etc. A year ago, there was an attempt to start this again and we were asked to help clear out an invasive seaweed and kill off the exploding sea urchin population. Our volunteers spent a week spearing urchins and literally sea-weeding and you could see the difference just after a couple of days. But, things are never that simple when there are scarce resources which far too many people are dependent on. In the end the committee made up of fishermen and tour operators could not come to an agreement and things went back to the drawing board. There have been recent attempts to address the issues with our marine resources in Diani again primarily being spearheaded by CORDIO, a marine based research NGO and we have been attending some of the meetings and keen to help where we can. Thus, we thought this is a good moment to start perhaps building up a relationship with the fishermen and just trying to understand what things are currently like for them and so our last gappers went off four a couple of days to learn a little bit more about the day to day lives of the Fisherkings and Kennedy, our Marine Project officer compiled a little narrative to share and to start our own documentation… Fishing 016 We went in two sailing dhows for over two hours. First, we checked the fishermen fishing traps; the first one was empty while the second trap contained two medium sized white snappers which the fisherman Mr. Isaac gladly harvested and dove down to put his trap-baited with seaweed- hoping to get a better catch the next time he visited it. Next, we line-fished, and in approximately two hours, we landed eight fish between the two boats, but all were very small white snappers. This could have been because of the fact that larger fish dwell beyond the reef and we were fishing within the reef as well as the sea being extremely rough on that day. Equipment: The traps are made from some local indigenous trees which the bark is peeled off and cut into strips then woven with an opening on one end where the fish get into the trap from but cannot go back out as their gills get caught up at the narrow end of the entrance. Some interesting observations we made included: – There is a special type of sea weed used as bait in the traps; – The fishing line was made with synthetic nylon lines – not natural; – The bait used in the line fishing was sliced up squid and Calamari; – Occasionally, the lines get caught up underneath, which can damage the seaweed, coral, or even the fishing line and hooks getting lost into the water which can be potentially damaging to the eco-system; – The fishermen also use nets but we did not get a chance to observe the fishing nets being used. Fishing 021When speaking to the fishermen on the boat, they spoke about how currently fishing is plentiful but there is only enough being caught to feed their families. On average, they catch under ten fish per day. The fishermen described how fishing stocks have not changed over the past three to four years and there used to be more fish. ‰Û÷The Sea‰Ûª was their reasoning for this change (we are not entirely sure what they meant by that). The fishermen described how they have been fishing for a very long time and they fish every single day of the year including religious holidays. They said they fish on average for a few hours each day, from early until after lunch at about 2pm in the afternoon depending on the tides. They also said that they like to go out to the reef to find bigger fish but fishing there is much harder because of the waves and the nets they use. They told us that they don‰Ûªt know of too many other fishermen out on the reef which was contrasted by Isaac (the fisherman we were originally introduced to) who said he knew of hundreds of fishermen on the reef. Isaac said that on a good day, about 50 fish can be caught by the fishing nets. However, he also said that fishing is very poor these days – “Not since I was a child did the fish overflow the boat.” He too blamed ‰Û÷The Sea‰Ûª and went on to describe how before, they couldn‰Ûªt use the poles to punt along the sea floor because the sea was so deep, only the paddles could be used. Now, the water‰Ûªs much shallower and fewer fish can be found. Fishing 018 Isaac showed us the nets they use; they are all synthetic nylon of various sizes and shapes. The larger fish nets are square holed as this does not allow a concertina (like diamond nets) to form and trap immature fish that are not ready to be caught and end up dying in the net and are thrown back when the fishermen realize their size. While the Sardine nets have holes only 8mm in diameter and are diamond shaped, the young Sardines are killed and the fish stock does not replenish. These nets really need to be replaced with ones that allow premature fish to escape until they are large enough to be sold or eaten. The net techniques used are mainly line fishing and ring fishing where two boats form a line to stop fish or where a ring is formed to encircle the fish. Barrier fishing and trawling were not undertaken by the fishermen. Fishing 019 Isaac then showed us the fish market and said that everyday fish come in for sale, the market opens at 7am and they receive ‰Û÷plenty of business‰Ûª. They sell all the fish by the kilo and in the freezers we were shown the prawns, lobsters, white snappers, parrot fish, Coli Coli, rock fish, and big yellow fin tunas, up to about 20kilos. A fresh lobster costs Kshs. 1500. Fishing 022