Mozambique has a huge coastline ~2500km and the majority of the population rely on seafood for their protein source. The diversity of people, cultures, marine habitats and fishing gears is really interesting to compare from place to place.
In Inhassoro we were interviewing the owner this beach seine net about bycatch of turtles, use and trade as well as IUU fishing. He said why don’t you stay to see what they pull up?
So we waited as the group of 15 men and 1 women pulled up the net. And there in the cod end of the net, a large familiar dome shape . Amongst the various sea grass fishes, squid and was a large, mature female green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas).
The net is long and had twisted a few times, tangling the turtle so she was wrapped up in the cod end of the net. Whether our presence and the fisheries enforcement officer who was accompanying us had an influence on the fate of this turtle is not clear. But with out asking or arguing the team of fishers began untwisting the net, removing fish and seagrass until we could properly see the turtle.
Her front flippers were wrapped under the heavy net and the team worked to flip her over in an effort to free the very heavy (~150kg) female turtle. After a stressful few minutes of twisting and balancing the turtle vertically on her head, she was flipped and the remaining tangled flipper was leveraged out of the net using a large simbiri pole. Although some more finesse could have been used to release her, she had no evidence of cuts or scratches and we then quickly proceeded to assist turning her to face the water.
That moment were your heart feels full and the waves wash the sand off her carapace and she disappears back into the ocean . This moment could happen with much greater frequency if coastal communities and CCPs are given the the time and resources for capacity building, education programmes, enforcement of turtle protection laws and support for communities to integrate alternative livelihood options or improve their existing livelihood options to allow them to raise their general wellbeing. There’s a long way to go and a lot of people that need to get on board but there’s small signs of hope in communities scattered all along the MZ coast. Therefore we continue this work with the hope of Tartarugas para o amanhã.