Maputo — The Fisheries Inspection authorities in the central Mozambican province of Sofala have seized 1,591 kilos of live mangrove crabs along the coastline of Beira City, from fishermen who caught the crustaceans in breach of the closed season, which ran from 15 October to 31 December according to a report in Wednesday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias".
Speaking at a press conference on Monday in Beira, the head of the provincial department of the Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries, Carlos Sendela, said the seizure was the outcome of coordinated work by a multi-sector team carried out during the closed season at the fishing sites. The living crabs have been returned to their habitat.
In addition to the crabs, two vessels used to ferry the illegally caught crustaceans were also seized. One of them was returned to its owner after he paid a fine of 200,000 meticais (about 2,700 US dollars). The second, which has not been claimed by the owner, will revert to the State. Two individuals arrested in connection with the illegal fishing were freed after paying the respective fines.
"The closed season is intended to protect the females so that they can spawn, thus ensuring a large reproduction," Sendela said.
He added that, although the closed period for crab fishing has come to an end, the activity must not take place in a disorderly manner. "In 2021, the sector will monitor the growth and reproduction of crabs in order to ensure sustainable fishing," he added.
The authorities will inspect very closely the size of crabs caught and anyone found with undersize or juvenile crabs will face severe penalties.
The official target for catches of mangrove crabs in Sofala in 2021 is 160 tonnes. For 2020, the target was 122 tonnes.
Sendela also announced that the inspectors had destroyed 600 mosquito nets that had been used illegally for fishing along the Beira coast. Because of their fine mesh, these nets catch not only adult fish, but juveniles and larvae and thus pose a serious threat to coastal ecosystems.
Persuading fishermen not to use mosquito nets, or other damaging type of nets, remains a challenge for the sector, said Sendela, hence the need to involve other institutions, particularly the police, since the use of such nets is a crime.