Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tanzania - the rest of the story

June 20th
Today is our first fishing day!  After an early breakfast followed by picking up some fruit for our day on the water, we made our way towards the beach to find bait.  The tide was flooding in so all the fishing boats could reach their near shore moorings and allow the fisherman to come ashore.  They were all displaying their catches on the beach in hopes of attracting a buyer and small ‘fish auctions’ were going on all over the beach.  Mukama, being from Tanzania, acted as our liaison for a lot of our dealings with the locals and helped us organize some fresh kingfish (mackerel) and queenfish (trevally) at the market.    We also spotted a young bull shark (less than 1 meter) caught earlier by fishermen… we loaded our boat and got underway with our hopes high!!!

We did two 50 hook sets in the downstream portion of the river… but no sharks.  We caught three catfish (Arius africanus) and a large mud crab.  As in the Everglades, our baits were most likely eaten by scavengers.  

The other half of our team was land-based today and conducted an assessment of vegetation along the downstream portion of the river. We continued to record birds and also saw our first monkeys along the shore, confirming that we are NOT in the Everglades!!!

June 21st – 28th
During the last week of our trip we fished in as many locations as we could, making sure to hit all the areas in and around the Ruvu River estuary.  We fished in freshwater upstream areas all the way out to the offshore coral reefs.  Although we had some great encounters with hippos, Nile crocodiles, blue monkeys, and yellow baboons, we still only caught a few more catfish.  Even when we fished in the coral reef habitat… nothing.  We didn’t even see fish swimming around.  It is also interesting to note that during our entire time on the waters in and around the Ruvu, we didn’t observe any dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, or schooling fish.   Artisanal fishing may be a big player here, however, more standardized fishing will be needed to say for sure.

In the last few days, the tides were really against us for getting on the water.  We were experiencing spring tides with ranges up to 4m and in Bagamoyo that means very little water at and around low tide.  During these times it wasn’t possible to get our boat off the trailer or get into the Ruvu River even if we could have launched the boat.  We took advantage of this time and visited the local fisherman on the beach to try and get another look at their hauls to get a better understanding of the local fish communities… and some samples!!!  After a bit of wheeling and dealing by Tanzanian fish biologist, Mukama, we had more fish than we had room for. 

Our time was running out quickly, but we knew the importance of getting as many of these fish sampled as possible.  We took them back to the Downtown Bagamoyo guest house where we were staying and got to work.  Each fish was identified to species, weighed, measured, and sampled for fin and epaxial white muscle.  It was a big team effort but after two straight days of processing fish, we had samples from over 250 individuals and 35 different species.  We also managed to attract every fly within the area and reinforced the utility of the electric tennis racket bug zapper!! 

On the last day of our official business in Tanzania, we travelled west to Morogoro on a formal invitation from Vivienne Abbot, the director of the Republic of Tanzania’s Integrated Water Sanitation and Hygiene program (iWash) and part of a larger Global Water for Sustainability (GLOWS) program.  We briefed her on the field excursion and plans for moving forward were discussed, including the possibility of more collaborations with FIU biologists and personnel!  It seems the Tanzania adventure may not be over yet!!!  Asante sana Tanzania… it has been an esteemed pleasure!!!

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