Today kinda sucked. We found an illegal gillnet set right next to the sandbank where we saw the whale shark on Saturday. The net was massive, around 1000 m in length.
The large mesh could certainly tangle whale sharks, but it was probably set to tangle stingrays as they move off the sandbank at daybreak. The most common stingray here, the pink whipray (Pateobatis fai), is a threatened species itself, so either target is a conservation concern.
We’re seeing gillnets being used in the whale shark area more and more. The legal fishing activities off Mafia aren’t much of a threat to whale sharks, but these illegal techniques are a definite problem.
We’re working with the Tanzanian Fisheries Research Institute on this project, so I’ve passed on the photos and information from today over to them. We’ll likely follow up with some more meetings with the local management authorities here on the island next week.
I took quite a few photos, and I asked Mads to dive down to provide a sense of scale. The net is big – about 5 m high. We’ve lightened the mesh a bit so you can see it better, as its almost invisible.
I’ll update on progress on this issue at a later stage. Hoping we’ll have a better day tomorrow.
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