Friend and fantastic film maker Chris Scarffe visited late last year to produce an educational documentary aimed at creating awareness about unsustainable whaleshark and manta fishing practices in Mozambique. Two versions of the film are being produced, Portuguese and Bitonga narrated versions, with the hope of that the film may help in lobbing the government to establish greater legal protection for these animals.
While Chris was here we went out to the beach to check out a whaleshark carcass, that was an caught as accidental by-catch in gill nets. During this excursion and just as the sun was setting we got a call from a dive centre, not much further down the coast to come check out a turtle that had just washed up dead with no obvious injuries. Chris filmed the whole story- collecting the turtle and then conducting the necropsy to determine cause of death. Here is his latest project update highlighting some of the threats sea turtles are exposed to and mention of the necropsy I performed.
Gill nets are not only a threat to large species such as whale sharks and manta rays along the Mozambican coastline. Turtles are another species, which fall foul of these near invisible nets on a regular basis. The nets coupled with the impact of consuming plastic in the water, spear fishing, trawling and the killing of turtles and the poaching of their eggs at nest sites is having a major impact on their populations.
Turtles however unlike whale sharks and manta rays are directly protected under Mozambican law. Unfortunately however these laws are rarely enforced. Whilst one of the key goals of the film is to push through legislation to protect whale sharks and manta rays under national law it is vital that the laws are enforced if legislation is to be effective.
Whilst making the film we saw first hand some of the threats to turtles as a small green turtle washed up on the beach close to where we had discovered the whale shark. A necropsy carried out by Jess Williams a scientist from the Marine Megafauna Foundation showed that its digestive tract contained significant amounts of plastic and was the probable cause of death.
Whilst flying over Zavora in the microlight we also witnessed scientist Yara Tibirica and her colleagues battling on scuba to free a turtle, which was trapped in gill nets. What we saw is very much the tip of a very large iceberg and shows how legislation is only the first step in the protection of whale sharks and manta rays in Mozambique.
Thanks Chris for helping to spread the message, not only for sea turtles but the wider impacts to the marine environment here in Mozambique. Looking forward to the debut screening of the film!
Check out his project profile and the original blog post here- http://saveourseas.com/projects/educationalvideo_mz/enforcement