The Mozambique government recently announced its intention to crack down on poached fish -- and not the cooked kind. "Illegal fishing is a challenge that we have to deal with because it affects the country and the whole world and in Mozambique we are improving inspection schemes together with several national and international bodies," said a deputy fishing minister. At things now stand, Mozambique monitors a 50-mile radius of ocean with a single patrol boat -- Kuswag I -- paid for by the governments of Norway and Iceland.
The most obvious animal or environmental advocacy reaction to this news to celebrate it. Cracking down on illegal fishing, one might think, would benefit fish, their stocks, and the aquatic ecosystem. But the initiative is both less meaningful and more complicated than it sounds. In fact, the closer you get to the deal the more it stinks.
As the initial report goes on to note: "The fisheries sector has a strategic role to play in food and nutritional security, collecting foreign currency and generating employment in Mozambique, where production totals around 150,000 tons of fish per year. Fishing is ranked fifth on Mozambique's export list and accounts for 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and around US$75 million of the balance of trade." Fishing, in other words, is big business in Moz and, as such, any fish saved by a crackdown on illegal fishing will only become fair frame for legal fisheries. This is not about conservation.