Now You Sea
Fishermen’s Perspectives Through the Generations
Mzee Omari Said Ndegwa was born in Mida village. He is about 70 years old and has lived amid the beauty and splendour of Mida Creek, his entire life. The diversity of Mida Creek is attributed to its productive mangrove forests, which provide feeding grounds for turtles, nursery grounds for fish, nectar for bats and honeybees and much more. To Mzee Omari’s community the creek is a very important natural source for food and income.
Since he was a young boy, Mzee Omari has been fishing in Mida Creek with his father. “Fishing and farming are my main sources of livelihood,” says Mzee Omari. The income he earns though fishing has helped him provide an education for his children.
Mzee Omari tells us that in the past, there were plenty of fish in Mida creek. They were able to fill the canoe with fish and the surplus was transported for sale in Mombasa. “But now things have changed, we now get 2-5kg of fish and we depend on seasonal fishing,” he says. Omar Athman, a 23-year-old fisherman, agrees with Mzee Omari. He says “our fathers used to fish nearer to the shore, but now we have to go further to get fish. They used to get their catch easily but today the generation of fish has disappeared.”
The fishermen attribute these changes to the influx of seasonal fishermen, unregulated fishing and pollution. Overfishing is a major concern because we are not giving species enough time to replenish.
One of the consequences of fishing is bycatch; Local Ocean’s Bycatch Release Programme works with local fishermen to rescue sea turtles that they accidentally catch in fishing nets, longlines and traditional fishing traps such as uzio (a fence like trap). According to Mzee Omari sea turtles were killed in the past for food and income and were it not for LOC’s initial Watamu Turtle Watch programme turtles would probably not be seen in Watamu. The fact that he sees turtles when out fishing is because of the education and awareness that LOC has brought to his community. Mzee Omari and Omar Athman are among the fishermen who work closely with LOC to protect turtles.
Both fishermen agree that the ocean has abundant resources for all, but we human beings are responsible for destroying what we depend on. Turtles will thrive in a healthy ecosystem and so will all marine life. Mzee Omari and Omar Athman know that there are still fishermen and people in the community who need to understand the importance of conservation. With the knowledge that these two fishermen have received from LOC, they are able to educate their fellow fishermen about poaching and the impacts of using illegal fishing gear. They even confiscate illegal fishing gear and report this to the Kenya Wildlife Service rangers. “The work of LOC in conservation is important and needs to continue,” they say.
One thing that Mzee Omari and Omar have is hope that the next generation will benefit from the ocean’s resources, “but we must act now,” they both say. Our fish stocks are dwindling, and we need to change today.
Now You Sea a community, that over generations has experienced the detrimental impacts of undesirable human activity, but they still have hope and so do we. You too can help LOC raise awareness and save turtles – click here to donate and show your support.