Muro-ami: Un-sustainable Utilisation of Aquatic Resources and Child Exploitation wrapped up in one word!

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I saw this clip (below) of a reef fishing technique used in the Philippines (called Muro-ami  or ‘reef hunting‘) that not only adversely effects coral reef ecosystems, but also exploits children, and felt compelled to share it. It is obviously an older clip, even so this fishing method continues to be used.

It is techniques like this that undermine in the eyes of the concerned public the utilisation techniques that are deployed elsewhere (like in New Zealand, and indeed within the Philippines) that deliberately seek to ‘avoid, remedy or mitigate‘ any adverse effects of fishing on the aquatic environment.

The definition of sustainable utilisation by which marine resources are utilised in New Zealand can honestly be deduced by watching the clip below (of a  reef fishing method from the Philippines) and applying the inverse.

This footage is from the movie ‘Muro-ami’ and is therefore over-dramatised.  Let me just say that the corals destroyed in this movie are not real. They were made for the movie.  Also did anyone notice that the freedivers were initially hearding anglefish, batfish, damselfish and reef groupers which at the end of the clip had turned into a wonderful aggregation of pelagic looking species? Still…

It obvious that this clip (above) is dramatisation (from the movie Muro-ami, e.g. there are no fish in the net or outside the net), nonetheless this does not subtract from potency of the illustration of the impact of this ‘use’ of child labour. In addition to the dangers to the lives of the children and the low wages, conditions abroad these Muro-ami vessels are rudimentary to say the least (the vessel in the clip above has a staggering 500 people on board (250 of that 500 are children between the ages of 7 and 15).

This method of fishing is not only destructive to coral reef ecosystems given that the method empties the reef waters of biomass it also results on the breaking of coral. Corals are slow growing are the foundation of a coral reef ecosystem.

Muro-ami fishing was introduced by the Japanese. The method involves children diving into the water and forming a wall in order to scare fish toward a distant net. The Children scare fish with a length string with streamers attached and a rock at the bottom that works as a sinker. This sinker doubles as a pounder to make sound which also scares the fish. However this pounding pounds coral and affects the ability of a reef to sustain itself. The Muro-ami method does not target any particular species, rather it is non-discriminating method that takes it all, including sharks, skates and small reef fish (however in defence of the Muro-ami fishers – at least everything is utilised). It is for these reasons that the Muro-ami fishing method was banned in 1986. Consequently this method has become increasingly applied to reefs in areas on the high seas (areas beyond any sovereign jurisdiction) within the South China Sea where enforcement is limited to the flag state.

With regard to children’s rights aspect of Muro-ami fishing and the exploitation of children (who not only scare the fish into the net, but must also free dive down (sometimes to 30m) and bring the net up) this clip below illustrates what can potentially occur with each dive. The clip above tells of boys having no way out of the net, save a small window in the net. Negotiating this bottleneck deep underwater obviously places their lives at risk.

For those who know me. I interned a year at UNICEF and my subjective self cannot abide child exploitation. Doubly so  when children are used to degrade the the ability of an ecosystem to sustain itself.

Interesting Links

  • For those who are wish to support the work of UNICEF – please visit them – Click here.
  • For those who are interested in fishes – Wiki has a great catalogue of tropical aquarium fishes Click here.

Links to Reef Survival and Climate Change

This image depicts all of the areas that the M...

This image depicts all of the areas that the Millenium Coral Reef Landsat Archive covers. Red dots indicate coral reef data at the website: http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi/landsat.pl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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7 thoughts on “Muro-ami: Un-sustainable Utilisation of Aquatic Resources and Child Exploitation wrapped up in one word!

  1. Pingback: A solution to the South China Sea squabbles « fromthefourthcorner

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