Major Projects: Fisheries

Fisheries Risk Assessment:

Mosquito Net Fishing in sub-Saharan Africa

VectorWorks, a mosquito net donor agency and malaria-prevention research group based at Johns Hopkins University (USA), made efforts to responsibly inquire into the trend that has seen Insecticide Treated mosquito Nets (ITN), provided to rural communities as an anti-Malaria control measure in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), being used as fishing gear.

The use of mosquito nets as fishing gears is commonly associated with unsustainable catches of largely immature fish, as well as causing  physical damage to habitats.

In light of these environmental concerns, the VectorWorks team requested a comprehensive fisheries risk assessment of mosquito net fishing in SSA to be used to guide future ITN distribution programmes and potential fisheries management interventions.

Advance Africa’s team undertook a comprehensive desktop survey to collate all the available scientific literature on this artisanal and commercial fishing method. Further data and information on mosquito net fishing was compiled through questionnaire surveys sent to key experts throughout SSA, in both fisheries and socio-economic fields. These questionnaires provided important and contemporary qualitative data which was used to conduct a fisheries risk assessment.

Data from the survey were combined with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to enable Advance Africa to determine the geographical extent of mosquito net fishing and ITN fishing practices across the entirety of SSA. These findings were included in the final report that provided an overview of the use and geographic extent of mosquito net fishing in SSA, detailing descriptions of the various gear types, how the gears are used, habitat types where mosquito net fishing occurs, catch composition including species and sizes, as well as reported impacts of mosquito net fishing in these habitats.

One of the key outcomes from the study was a lack of quantitative catch data for MNF which presented a challenge in terms of modelling its impacts on fish populations. To overcome this challenge a comprehensive qualitative fisheries risk assessment, combining two different model approaches, was conducted in order to best determine the risks MNF posed to different species based on their life history characteristics and habitat preferences.

To conclude, the report included possible management interventions and recommendations, and emphasised the need for intensified research into an increasingly widespread practise in SSA.