HI All

We stayed a couple of nights, last week, at a lovely lodge on the banks of the Chobe river separating Botswana from the Caprivi Strip
(now Zambezi Region) in Namibia. It is standard practice, when residing in this sort of environment, to go out for a sunset cruise at
about 4pm drifting slowly along the river’s edge enjoying the sight and sounds of Hippos and Crocs with birds aplenty. We were
witness to big flocks of Open billed storks along with all the Herons from Green Backed to Squacco and Purple. There were a whole
lot of noticeably young crocodiles lazing on the sand banks nearby – when you come across adult crocs they are very quick to launch
themselves into the depths of the river whereas these youngsters simply moved to the shallows near the water’s edge giving us all
that evil glare of theirs

Soon after we left camp, we came across a Goliath Heron that had become entangled in a thick piece of that ghastly blue, nylon
fishing net known as Monafilament. Our boat driver took pity on it quickly jumping over the side of the boat to help the poor creature.
Needless to say the bird gave him a lot of flack so he had to continually dodge a very sharp beak for the 10 minutes he took to
disentangle it. Heron store their catches in a little pouch under their beak retrieving food as and when they are hungry – with so many
small fish around it is rare that this pouch is not filled to the brim. This Goliath, however, had an empty pouch and would have starved
to death if it had been left much longer.

There was a small village, en route, where a few of the wives and young girls were fishing legally for their supper, as has been done
for many years, along the banks of the Chobe River. Most distressing for us, however, was the prominence of 4 or 5 small fishing
boats nearby carrying large reels of this monafilament. Just a couple of hundred metres later we were witness to a small group of
folks packing large sacks with their abundant “Net Catch” for the day. Our driver told us that these would be loaded onto a boat and
taken upstream overnight to a northerly destination where they would be sold to truck drivers and driven north through Zambia often
ending up as far away as the Congo. On the way back to our camp we were asked by a couple of guys in a boat to drive slowly taking
care not to rip through their newly laid nets for the night

Some countries have, I believe, allowed netting in certain waters so long as the holes have a minimum diameter of 3 inches – this
means that only mature fish are caught whilst letting their young, smaller progeny live to see another day. I’ve spoken to many others
who’ve related stories about fish netting in this country. Organisations like African Parks have, apparently, removed an enormous
amount of it from Lake Kariba. Netting has been a big problem in places like Lake Chivero with many Cormorants losing their lives
when trying to pluck fish from the surface of the netting

The overall question is, of course, should we just allow fishing from the banks with poorly constructed rods or deem the use of nets a
commercial necessity accepting it as “here to stay”? If netting is to remain a crime, how does one prevent it in faraway spots like
where we witnessed all of this tragedy unfolding? Does it require the prevention of the import of this monofilament; educating
youngsters at school; or, severe policing by local authorities? Fish for thought. Mike G.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Open chat