Around the world, fishermen who want a really easy way to catch a bunch of fish are doing so with dynamite.
The practice goes on all over the world, from Lebanon to Malaysia, National Geographic reported recently, but nowhere is it more prevalent than in Tanzania.
“I would say probably for the last five years it’s at least as bad or worse than it’s ever been,” Jason Rubens, a marine conservationist with World Wildlife Fund’s Tanzania branch, told Nat Geo. The Wildlife Conservation Society spent time studying the prevalence of this illegal practice and counted 300 explosions in 30 days along the coast of Tanzania, more than 10 blasts a day.
Fishermen attach dynamite to weighted plastic bottles and toss them overboard. The dynamite kills all fish in the blast radius, but it also kills reefs, turtles and non-salable fish.
So why do people do it? “The situation is that we don’t have proper fishing equipment, so we can’t work,” one fisher said. “The easiest way for many people to earn something is from fishing with dynamite.”
It’s also dangerous. Scuba divers are sometimes caught unawares by dynamite fishermen, scaring and potentially hurting them. If people won’t swim in the sea for fear of incidents like those, wrote National Geographic’s Jani Actman, that’s also a problem for Tanzania, where tourism makes up 17 percent of its gross domestic product.
“My goal is to educate the community on how to conserve our ocean resources,” said Omari Abdallah, a former dynamite fisherman who now works for Sea Sense, a Tanzania nongovernmental organization.
But how can this practice be stopped in the long term? Most likely, the only way to do so won’t be by stepping up patrols or limiting access to explosives. But by providing alternate means of income to the fishermen who engage in this process, perhaps it can be eradicated for good.