Mosquito nets intended to prevent malaria are finding an unanticipated use as fishing nets all across the tropics, according to a new study.
These fine-meshed nets scoop up fish of all types and sizes indiscriminately. Experts are worried they are draining fish populations.
But the study’s authors say poverty is the main reason why the practice persists, and efforts to limit mosquito net fishing may end up hurting people who are just trying to get by.
‘Pretty much everywhere’
Insecticide-treated bed nets have been an extremely successful tool against malaria. Widespread distribution of these mosquito nets are a major reason why 60 percent fewer people died of the disease in 2015 than did in 2000, according to the World Health Organization. In 2015, health officials delivered more than 150 million nets to countries where malaria is found. Nets are usually given away free or subsidized.
Working on fisheries management in northern Mozambique, Imperial College London graduate student Rebecca Short saw people using them to fish.
“To the naked eye, it did seem to be going on a lot, in a lot of different places there,” she said.
Fishing this way takes little skill. And since the nets are often free, it takes no capital. Experts are concerned that it could increase the number of people catching the limited supply of fish.