Desperate Tanzanian fishermen are illegally dynamiting fish by the boatload

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — A figure in snorkeling gear and flippers peers into the translucent blue of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania. As he scans the depths, a school of reef fish pass underneath. He signals his colleague on board a small dugout canoe who is holding a 500 milliliter plastic bottle full of explosives. The snorkeler scrambles back to the boat as the man lights a fuse and launches the bottle into the ocean. Moments later an explosion rocks the tranquil waters and sends a large column of ocean spray towards the sky, releasing a thunderous boom. After a few seconds the snorkeler is already back in the water scooping up dozens of dead fish.


Dynamite fishing, a brutally effective and destructive form of fishing, is on the rise in Tanzania. Last spring, a Wildlife Conservation Society census of whales and dolphins in Tanzania using acoustic recordings inadvertently picked up dynamite blasts, revealing for the first time just how rampant the problem has become. The WCS collected 231 hours of acoustic data from over 1,600 miles of Tanzania’s coastline. The results show blasts going off in every region along the coast with a heavy concentration around the country’s biggest city, Dar es Salaam. At some intervals, the data recorded more than nine blasts an hour.

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