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The wooden harpoon to capture octopuses and protect corals

Octopus fishing represents an important source of food and income for coastal communities that depend on the sea for their livelihood. In the south of Anjouan, it is a vital economic activity which creates jobs for local fishermen.

What to remember about octopus fishing

It is on foot that the fishermen go to the corals along the beach at low tide, equipped with a wooden harpoon in search of holes or crevices in the corals where the octopuses take shelter. This is the traditional method for catching the pulps, although some wait until high tide to catch the octopuses while diving.

Access to this resource is not regulated in the region, which attracts many fishermen to the flats. In addition to overfishing, there are also destructive fishing practices, notably the use of iron rods exerting strong pressure on corals. The iron bar translated into Comorian as “ ntsontso » is the most commonly used tool for catching octopuses. This tool considerably destroys the corals which constitute the habitat of octopuses and many other marine species.

The women fishermen of Maecha Bora, an association founded in 2018, aim to coordinate sustainable management of marine resources in the villages of Dzindri, Vassy and Salamani. After being trained by Dahari, the members of the association took the initiative of training women fishermen in their community in the use of wooden harpoons or “harpoons”. mwiri », a sustainable fishing technique.


The advantages of using a wooden harpoon or mwiri »

Maecha Bora member and trainer Hadidja Bacar saw the immediate benefits of using the mwiri : “It was during an opening of fishing after 3 months of closure… We were obliged to bring the wooden harpoon to fish for octopus. I was not confident in the effectiveness of the method, but to my surprise, I managed to catch large octopuses weighing 3 kilos. Unlike the iron bar, when you prick the octopus with the mwiri, it comes out of the hole easily without breaking the corals. The results are impressive. »

Fishermen use bamboo to make sturdy wooden harpoons. Bamboo is very sturdy, but not strong enough to destroy coral. Then the wood is shaved to have a sharp, pointed mud.

The fisherwomen of Baecha Bora are convinced of this: the mwiri can significantly reduce the use of iron bars for octopus capture, and therefore the destruction of corals, in the southern regions of Anjouan. On their initiative, they will train 90 fishermen in the villages of Dzindri, Vassy and Salamani. From 2018 to 2022, 80% of people use the mwiri , whereas before 2018 no one used it.


More than 90 women trained

Two trainers then go to the town of Moya to support local fishermen and effectively share this practice so that they in turn become local leaders in sustainable fishing, like the fishermen of Maecha Bora.

Mouniat Souf, trainer from the village of Salamani, is very enthusiastic about sharing this sustainable fishing technique. “We need to know that corals are vital for marine biodiversity. It is at the coral level that the entire process of reproduction of marine life takes place. When we use the wooden harpoon, octopuses are easy to catch while protecting the corals, so that the next generation of octopuses can take refuge there. »


A motivating experience for the two trainers from Maecha Bora

Hadidja Bacar led four teams. According to her, the sessions were motivating: “The sessions that I had to lead were interesting. We saw the theory, then we went to sea and practiced with a wooden harpoon. At the time of practice, the participants clearly saw that what they were taught was no different from the reality on the ground. They considered me as professionals and not as someone who didn't know what he was doing... I was honored by this consideration. »

For Mouniat Souf, it is an initiative to take in hand. “My biggest fear was whether people would understand what I was teaching. Some new fishermen who had never caught octopus. I appreciated their presence, because they understood the advantages of using the mwiri to protect corals. At the end of the training, the participants were able to catch an octopus with a wooden harpoon. I am convinced that they will be able to share this skill with other fishermen. »