Fish Tales – Episode 4: Belhaj from Morocco
"My name is Belhaj. I live in Morocco. I’m 42 years old and I've been a fisherman for 18 years.”
Being a fisher. Caring for nature.
“Since I was a kid, I’ve always been fascinated by the sea, that’s why I chose to become a fisher. Sure, it's a job that requires a lot of patience, but sometimes, when you are at sea, you can have unexpected company, like turtles. That always makes me happy.
Unfortunately, sometimes other animals get caught in our fishing nets. It might take some time, but it’s important for me to put them back in the water, to save them.
Why? Because we need to protect marine biodiversity. Otherwise, we will create an imbalance. With climate change and pollution, human activities are already damaging marine life, so we try our best to respect the sea, and nature in general.
I wish we could find a solution to avoid bycatch – unintentionally catching other animals. Especially with endangered species. It’s terrible for the animals that get caught, but also for us fishers, because they damage our fishing gear. Bottlenose dolphins are particularly harmful to our nets.
And that’s what I expect if we collaborate with Med Bycatch project: solutions to help marine biodiversity, but also fishers.”
Belhaj has been working with GREPOM (our BirdLife Partner in Morocco) to collect information on the impacts fishing has on the marine environment. Scientific observers such as Abderrahman Qalmoun go on vessels with fishers and record any catches of vulnerable species. With this information, governments are able to implement more effective management measures to ensure that fishing and marine life can coexist.
The Med Bycatch Project
Fish Tales is brought to you by the project “Understanding Mediterranean multi-taxa bycatch of vulnerable species and testing mitigation: a collaborative approach” (the Med bycatch project) and is funded by the MAVA Foundation. The project supports Mediterranean countries, and specifically Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey, to implement standardised data collection of multi-taxa bycatch across different fishing gear, together with training, awareness raising, and to identify and test measures to reduce impact of fisheries on vulnerable species including seabirds, sea turtles, marine mammals, and sharks and rays.
The project is carried out by: BirdLife International, ACCOBAMS, GFCM, SPA/RAC, IUCN-Med and MEDASSET.