Illa de Benguerra, Mozambique

  • Date
  • 26 July 2000
  • Lodging
  • Benguerra Lodge
  • Distance
  • 26 KM
  • Total
  • 92961 KM

This morning Jim and I watched locals pulling in their hand-sewn fishing net. The tide determines when more than a dozen people – mostly young men – begin work for more than two hours every day to bring in the catch. The lengthy ropes to the net require workers to pair off along the shore in order to tug more than 100 meters of netting from the heavy water onto the bank. On the beach a pair on either side of the ropes faces the water and intertwines into the ropes a short, but strong piece of wood, which sits against their lower backs for leverage. As the workers walk slowly backwards, the net sluggishly moves from the sea with a poised rhythm unfolding as each pair reaches the top of the beach and moves to begin again in the shallow water – planting their stick through the rope before pulling slowly backwards once more.

Once the fish-filled net reaches shore, unloading and sorting commences. Today’s catch arrived at 9:50 a.m. with locals delighted to show us hundreds of tiny sardines, crawling crabs, baby shark, octopus (which I embarrassingly didn’t recognize), oodles of small fish, one too many jellyfish and slimy green seaweed.

Placed in buckets, the fish are then carried home balanced flawlessly upon several women’s’ heads. Some fish are kept for meals and others are taken to market or sold in the village. If the fish are too plentiful, then the women sit, sometimes for hours, with their children playing patiently in the sand, and string the fish onto lines that are thrown over a piece of wood balanced over the women’s shoulders during their long walk home. If the fish are too large, then the women gut them on the spot leaving stomachs and innards on the beach taking home only the meaty flesh.

Several meters down the beach is a man, probably 50 but who looks 60 from the sun and hard work, using a large needle and thread to hand-sew a fishing net more than 160 meters long. After watching the others bringing their net to shore, I understood now that the vast length is required for the fisherman to toss the net from the shore at low tide into waters that become deep and fill with fish during high tide.