Kenya wildlife perishes in nets bought with US aid

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Which is more valuable, Kenyan wildlife or Kenyan fishermen?

Plastic fishing nets — some bought for poor fishermen with American aid money — are tangling up whales and turtles off one of Africa’s most popular beaches.

One recent victim was a huge dappled whaleshark that bled to death after its tail was cut off by fishermen unwilling to slash their nets to save it. In another case, divers risked their lives to free a pregnant, thrashing humpback whale entangled in a net last summer.

Both incidents occurred off Diani beach, which is popular with American and European tourists.

The fishermen have traditionally used hooks and hand lines to haul in their catch, which they then sold to hotels full of tourists. But the use of plastic nets has become increasingly common as growing populations have competed to catch shrinking supplies of fish, marine biologist David Obura said.

I’m not sure about sea turtles, but Kenyans aren’t an endangered species:

Kenya’s population has increased with remarkable rapidity in recent decades. According to UN estimates, the national total rose by 28% from 6,416,000 in 1950 to 8,189,000 in 1960; by 37% to 11,253,000 in 1970; by 46% to 16,466,000 in 1980; by 36% to 22,400,000 in 1987; and by 24% to an estimated 27,885,000 in 1995.

The article barely hints at the crux of the problem:

In addition to the growing groups of poor fishermen crowding onto the reefs, huge European and Asian trawlers much further offshore are overfishing the deeper coastal waters, he said.

“The fishermen have the strong sense that there are other, richer fishermen out there raping and pillaging the seas and so why shouldn’t they?” he said.

The is one of the classic examples of the Tragedy of the Commons, because no one owns the fish. Iceland solved that problem years ago.

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