Maputo — The police have arrested five people in the central Mozambican city of Beira for devastating mangrove forests in Nhangau, on the outskirts of the city, and for fishing for prawns during the closed season.
According to a report in Thursday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, the group includes a police officer who told the others that he had authorised these environmental crimes. The names of those arrested have not yet been released.
The authorities seized from the group 20 canoes, 50 illicit fishing nets, two ox-drawn carts and a vehicle that were used in the crimes. Fisheries inspector Cesar Mapossa said the wood cut from the mangrove forest and the illegal nets will be incinerated. The canoes will be returned to their owners against payment of 15,000 to 20,000 meticais (256 to 340 US dollars) per canoe.
The men arrested were caught in possession of 100 kilos of prawns fished illegally. If the prawns are in a fit state for human consumption, they will be given to charitable institutions. If not, they too will be incinerated.
The mangroves are illicitly cut down for building materials, and for firewood and charcoal. The mangrove forest is also devastated to provide land for housing.
Mangrove forests are a protected ecosystem which exists along almost the entire length of the Mozambican coast. The destruction of the mangroves puts at risk a great variety of wildlife, which depends on these trees. The mangrove root systems provide nurseries for juvenile fish and crustaceans, and cutting down the mangroves threatens Mozambique's prawn fisheries.
The mangroves are also a natural barrier against coastal erosion. Destroying them will leave coastal areas unprotected against incursions by the sea, and will contribute to climate change.