In Mozambique, there are five species of sea turtles that occur along the coast. They are all threatened and, therefore, protected by law (as they have been for over 45 years). Despite efforts to reduce the effect of illegal fishing on sea turtle populations, the capture of these creatures still occurs regularly.
The managers at one of our Mozamnmbique villas spotted an adult green sea turtle in the possession of local fishermen. The turtle was captured using a mosquito net (visible in the photo) and was upside down in the small fishing boat. It was in distress but, luckily, still alive.
The fishermen stated that they captured the turtle for food. In this area, the capture of turtles for sustenance is very prevalent, and persuading the fishermen to let their meal go would be a lost cause. After negotiating for a while, the fishermen agreed to let the turtle go in exchange for 4000 Meticals (~$54,15).
Giving the fishermen money, unfortunately, only drives their motivation to capture more turtles, and is not seen as best practice. By offering to pay for the release of a turtle, a trade in itself becomes made. However, in the end, in order to persuade the captors, they were forced to offer them 1000 Meticals (~$13,54).
The turtle was released with help from bystanders. We guided the heavy and very tired turtle back into the blue of the ocean. We are certain this must have been an extremely stressful and traumatic event, and although we were fortunate to rescue this one turtle, there are many turtles who will not escape this fate.
The turtle quickly disappeared into the waves and was not seen again, however, we are not guaranteed its survival. We can only hope it was not recaptured along the shore, where multiple unmonitored fishermen await.
At Fire Island Eco Retreats, in partnership with Fire Island Conservation, we are dedicated to creating awareness and helping these animals escape the threat of extinction. That is exactly why we share stories like this one that looks deeper into the root of the problem to find a sustainable solution.
The main reason that turtles are being captured (along with other sea life), is sustenance. These fishermen often use mosquito nets and similar tools to capture these unsuspecting creatures, mostly to eat.
The problem of hunger is widespread in the area, and is a serious issue that must be tackled through sustainable and long-term solutions. This is a problem that causes a series of devastating side effects for the environment.
While fishing is allowed in the area where the turtle was found, all of the turtles along the coast of Mozambique are protected by law and have been for a very long time. This, however, means nothing to hungry locals with no other means of survival.
The survival of our fragile turtle species is becoming increasingly threatened due to poaching and unregulated fishing in the area. A lack of consequence has caused the frequency of poaching to become extensive.
Without necessary resources, such as boats, it is difficult to patrol the area and enforce the law. A collaborative approach involving local authorities, organisations and conservationists to investigate and regulate fishing in the area is required.
The northern coast of Mozambique is so remote that very few conservation efforts can be made by outsiders. If these attempts receive support, the hard work would go a long way towards finding the solution we need.
Learn more about how Fire Island Conservation is working to promote awareness and help the conservation of marine wildlife.