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Shark Finning in Mozambique – The Develish Dillemma

Mozambique has always been famous for its large numbers of sharks and rays. It is also an extremely poor country. This combination has triggered a develish dilemma: local fishermen have in the last decade begun to fish and fin sharks to sell to Chinese traders. They are destroying their own habitat and destroying future income from tourist development for short-term profit to support their families.










As an article in the newspaper The Guardian States, the  Chinese appetit for shark fin soup is rapidly devastating the Mozambique coastline. The country was considered a ‘diver’s paradise’,  but according to Andrea Marshall, director of Marine Megafauna Foundation in Tofu, Inhambane has one of the biggest manta ray populations in the world, with 908 known to the foundation, but has witnessed an 87% drop in the past decade. This means that where visitors could once expect to see six or seven of the creatures in a single dive, now the average is less than one.

She said: “I would argue that far more people benefit from tourism here than from the fishing industry. The economic argument for preserving these charismatic animals in the long term surely outweighs a one-off profit for a few fishermen and Chinese.”

Time is running out for the manta ray, a beautiful fish with big, triangular pectoral “wings” that has a meagre reproductive cycle.

Marshall, principal scientist for the manta ray programme, said: “We’re looking at decimation in the next decade or decade-and-a-half. Manta rays are in big trouble along the coastline. If current trends continue, I don’t give this population more than a few generations.”

Fishermen are more efficient than ever before thanks to bigger nets and more sophisticated equipment. “Sometimes the fishing nets are given by the Chinese, other times they’re part of official schemes intended to benefit fishing communities,” Marshall added. “We’ve been to the fishing camps and you can see the high-quality hooks and lines that they have now.”

And when she followed the money, it led to China. “It’s a very secretive operation, but we’ve had confirmation of the Chinese buying and shipping them out. There are containers that are just reeking. Everyone knows who owns those containers, but nobody does anything.”

The only way to stop this, is providing local fishermen with more income through alternative livelihood, through for instance tourism. Mozambique is however not easily accessible to tourists, and when the rays and sharks have all gone, the country will attract less divers than it is now.

“We do it because we don’t have a good job,” a fisherman explained, standing in the small, sandy family settlement that includes huts made of reeds and coconut leaves. “We know it’s not good and the Chinese are killing things that are not allowed to be killed, but we do it to survive and get some money. We don’t want to have to steal from other people. If we were given an alternative, we would stop.”


In one of our earlier posts, we mentioned the documentary ‘Shiver’, made by Moz Images. You can watch the trailer and the full documentary on:

You can read the full article on:



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