This week the interviewed OPTATUS BENNO KALOLELA, a marine conservation assistant in the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development on the effects of dynamite fishing along the Indian Ocean. Excerpts:
QUESTION: Before getting into details of dynamite fishing, how does life look like in the sea?
ANSWER: the sea is a good habitant of many living things. Most of them live and feed in salt water. A good example is fish, sea grass, mangrove trees, corals, coral reefs and a lot of different species. Sea grass are used as a source of food for fish, reducing the impact of sea erosion and gives the sea special features for tourism attraction and research studies.
Q: What exactly are coral reefs?
A: They are living organisms with a tendency of accumulating together during their life. When corals die, they make hard structures like stones called coral reefs. These structures are good habitat and spawning site for fish. The corals are food for fish and other different species living in the salt water. However, coral reefs are good protectors of sea from erosion as they reduce the speed of water direct to the beach and cliff. They are also good attraction for tourism.
Q: What is the relationship between the coral reefs and fish in the sea?
A: The two have very close relationship. For example, the coral reefs are breeding sites for fish. However, in recent years, many coral reefs have come under severe attacks from dynamite fishing which is an illegal activity. Many people involved in this type of activity are those living near the sea.
Q: What is dynamite fishing?
A: It is an illegal fishing that uses explosive devices that kill fish and other creatures under the sea. It is done by ignorant people who believe that it is the best way of catching fish while in actual fact they cause destruction of breeding grounds. However, dynamite fishing depletes mangrove trees which in turn accelerate sea erosion.
Apart from destroying beach environment, dynamite fishing is not well handled, can kill someone or cause disability if it explodes before the estimated time.
Further more, dynamite fishing destroys some fish species which do not want disturbances like the coelacanth and cause desert in the sea.
Q: What can be done to fight dynamite fishing?
A: We can control all sorts of dynamite fishing by providing education to both fishermen and the public. However, there is a need to review the laws governing fisheries and impose severe penalty for anyone caught using dynamites. The government can form an intelligence unit to gather information. Another thing is patrols.
Although it requires massive resources, the government can work out plans to ensure constant patrols along and in the Indian Ocean. The Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development has the responsibility to conduct education campaigns on the effects of dynamite fishing and create awareness among the public on the use of better fishing tools.
Q: Which are the most affected areas along the Indian Ocean?
A: An investigation shows that the most affected is along the indian Ocean especially Islands of Kendwa, Makatube, Sinda, Bongoyo, Mbudya and Funguyasini.
Other areas include Kijiwemtu, Kijiwesimba, Mbutu, Gezaulole, Gomvu,Changayahela and in the shallow waters at Kikuli and Karage.
Q: What are the challenges?
A: One of the challenges is that the ministry has not yet given dynamite fishing the required weight to combat it. Limited budgetary allocation for patrol to reach and cover many parts of the sea.
Q: What is your advice?
A: The government through the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development should ensure that it gives priority to dynamite fishing, by reviewing laws, strengthening patrols and education campaigns if we have to fight out dynamite fishing and make the sea a better place for aquatic animals and other living things.