Everything is interconnected. From the NYTimes, “Meant to Keep Malaria Out, Mosquito Nets Are Used to Haul Fish In“:
BANGWEULU WETLANDS, Zambia — Out here on the endless swamps, a harsh truth has been passed down from generation to generation: There is no fear but the fear of hunger.
With that always weighing on his mind, Mwewa Ndefi gets up at dawn, just as the first orange rays of sun are beginning to spear through the papyrus reeds, and starts to unclump a mosquito net.
Nets like his are widely considered a magic bullet against malaria — one of the cheapest and most effective ways to stop a disease that kills at least half a million Africans each year. But Mr. Ndefi and countless others are not using their mosquito nets as global health experts have intended.
Nobody in his hut, including his seven children, sleeps under a net at night. Instead, Mr. Ndefi has taken his family’s supply of anti-malaria nets and sewn them together into a gigantic sieve that he uses to drag the bottom of the swamp ponds, sweeping up all sorts of life: baby catfish, banded tilapia, tiny mouthbrooders, orange fish eggs, water bugs and the occasional green frog…
The nets have helped save millions of lives, but scientists worry about the collateral damage: Africa’s fish.
Part of the concern is the scale. Mosquito nets are now a billion-dollar industry, with hundreds of millions of insecticide-treated nets passed out in recent years, and many more on their way.
They arrive by the truckload in poor, waterside communities where people have been trying to scrape by with substandard fishing gear for as long as anyone can remember. All of a sudden, there are light, soft, surprisingly strong nets — for free. Many people said it would be foolish not to use them for fishing…
Scientists are hardly the only ones alarmed. Fistfights are breaking out on the beaches of Madagascar between fishermen who fear that the nets will ruin their livelihoods, and those who say they will starve without them. Congolese officials have snatched and burned the nets, and in August, Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, threatened to jail anyone fishing with a mosquito net…
One of the few detailed studies on the issue showed that in several villages along Lake Tanganyika, an essential body of water shared by four East African nations, 87.2 percent of households used mosquito nets to fish. When that study was presented at a malaria conference last year, the reception, according to some of those in attendance, was decidedly cool.
“People are very defensive about this topic,” said Amy Lehman, an American physician and the founder of the Lake Tanganyika Floating Health Clinic, which conducted the study. “The narrative has always been, ‘Spend $10 on a net and save a life,’ and that’s a very compelling narrative.
“But what if that net is distributed in a waterside, food-insecure area where maybe you won’t be affecting the malaria rate at all and you might actually be hurting the environment?” she said. “It’s a lose-lose. And that’s not a very neat story to tell.”…
I just finished watching an HBO movie about malaria in Africa.
It is, unfortunately, a perfectly rational action — what good is it for your family to avoid malaria if they end up starving to death instead? At least you’ll die faster from malaria.
So happens pernethryn is phenomenally toxic to aquatic life. It binds well to the nets but mere contact with them will kill all those little critters, post haste.
The simple answer would seem to be pass out two nets, one for malaria and another for fishing. Obviously that costs more money
Villago Delenda Est
@D58826: There’s no guarantee that even if you do that, the malaria nets won’t be used for fishing anyways.
Unintended consequences at work yet again.
Our belief in one and only one capitalist economic model will surely kill us all
Oooops! I forgot to remember the Maine.
And another war related anniversary, 70 years ago this weekend, Kurt Vonnegut spent a few days hanging out in an underground meat locker that was part of a slaughter house.
I remembered the Maine just the other day when that story with the fake photos of Russian tanks entering Ukraine.
Frederic Remington cabled from Cuba in 1897 “there will be no war,”
William Randolph Hearst cabled back “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”
Cole’s pupdates have been scanty this week. What else could he be doing? It’s too cold for him to mop.
Not sure, malaria is not a quick death.
But given the size of the mesh my guess is that over fishing will be swift and sure so they will starve to death while suffering from malaria. Like so much else this situation is FUBAR and death is sure to follow. I have no idea how we can save this situation.
In my experience, mosquito nets aren’t very robust at all. They’re only meant to stop mosquitoes. Fish, at least those big enough for humans to eat, are considerably bigger and able to rip holes in mozzie nets. People who need to catch fish to eat should get proper fishing nets, which do a better job and last longer. And aren’t treated with anti-mosquito chemicals. That, and helping these people feed their families by other means.
@Amir Khalid: I was thinking along the same lines. It seems like fishing nets need to be stronger than mosquito nets do, so a possible solution would be to use weaker netting for the mosquito nets. I suspect that would increase the cost of the netting, since right now it’s probably whatever’s cheapest that will do the job.
Definitely a cautionary tale that when you’re dealing with extreme poverty, it’s tough to address one problem in isolation.
@Amir Khalid: @Redshift:
My guess if they’re fishing the shoreline they’re solely catching small fish that couldn’t split the nets. Think African cichlids like you’d see in your local aquarium shop. And yes, even for those something like a quarter-inch mesh would allow the tiny fry, eggs and insects to pass through.
@D58826: Well I think the article is making the point that the fishing itself is a problem. Its overfishing and ultimately destructive and unsustainable via the net method. So two nets might (and that is certainly speculative) solve the malaria problem but wouldn’t address the ecological problem at all,
Maybe he’s too busy playing with the puppies to bother posting about them.
Enhanced Voting Techniques
Sort of concern trolling and fuck the poor all wrapped into one with a dose of “the damn liberals cause the problem by trying to help”
Should have stuck with DDT.
Enhanced Voting Techniques
Call me cynical but I am incline to believe “over fishing” means “lay about bucks looking for free fish taking money out of hard working corprate fishing concerns”. There is an awful lot of speculation and very little hard numbers in that article.
@Enhanced Voting Techniques: Cynical , yes…and looking for an insult that is not there.
DDT is still used, throughout many parts of the world, to combat mosquitoes. Just because the U.S. banned its use does not mean other parts of the world, have done so as well.
@Enhanced Voting Techniques:
If there is one thing it definitely doesn’t mean, it’s that. The vast majority of Africa is a marginal habitat for humans, low on biomass and bad at supporting both the plants and animals we grow to exist above a stone age level. If you dredge small rivers like these aggressively enough, you will reduce the numbers of everything living in the river until there is not enough living in there to gather. It’s even possible to wipe out species and permanently alter the aquatic biome, and the stuff you’re most likely to wipe out is the stuff people eat rather than dangerous parasites.
DDT is by many standards an excellent pesticide. It’s cheap, and it’s lower toxicity to humans than water. Lower toxicity to damn near everything except insects, in fact. It had two problems. A) It was so cheap and effective that we were using it in such insane amounts that we overcame the low toxicity. B) Its half-life for biodegradation is about fifteen years. It builds up, and you hit the ‘used too much’ mark by surprise and then you’re stuck with it for a couple of decades.
@gene108: DDT is still an active ingredient in Chinese-made incense coils widely sold in Africa.
Because then we’d have DDT resistant mosquitoes and kill off all the birds of prey.
@gene108: Everyone knows that US laws and regulation apply to everyone, everywhere; cause we’re just AWESOME.
An important point about Africa as a bad environment for humans is that we evolved there. That means that Africa is full of diseases and parasites that have evolved with humans since before there were any homo sapiens, and that tends to make it a very tough environment. Everywhere else, we’re an invasive non-native species that has managed to outrun most of the natural checks on its population growth.
the law of unintended consequences is inviolable.
@Roger Moore: Mrs. Cole! Mrs. Cole! John’s hogging the puppies again!
Or that’s what Roger says, anyway.
I took the DDT comment as snark, but just for fun, everything you ever wanted to know about DDT toxicity and carcinogenicity in humans.
And also, too, one of my favorite Superfund sites, the Palos Verdes Shelf.
@Amir Khalid: RE: the weak mosquito nets. When I first read the article my thought was the nets were being sewn end to end to make them larger. And that might be true. The nets might also be sewn back to back to make them double or triple thick to be able to stop larger animals.
J R in WV
This situation is enough to drive a grown man to tears! And not happy ones, either…
Talk about dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t. Starve or die from Malaria, or perhaps the daily double, both.
And there is resistance to vaccination, so that polio (etc, etc) lurks in tiny poor corners, waiting to emerge to the first world, where kids no longer routinely get vaccinated against a disease long gone from these prosperous parts.
That Superfund site is a good read too. PCBs and DDT lying on the ocean floor, probably lasting forever, hard to reach and process… amazing cluster fuck!!
Very cool link. Thanks for posting.
Fascinating seeing how the folks in that area live. Dug the slideshow and the video.
@Enhanced Voting Techniques:
Oh, FFS. Consider the pore size necessary for a mosquito net to work. Then, consider the fishing regulations necessary for significant fishing activity (read: commercial or sustenance fishing) to be remotely sustainable, regulations that are aimed to reduce bycatch and to let pass through the net or return to the water smaller fish that have not yet had the chance to reproduce and and smaller-than-fish food sources such as fry, insects, and plants. It’s self-evident that any substantial fishing efforts with nets capable of trapping mosquitos would be hugely destructive and nonsustainable.
And that is before you recall that these nets are impregnated with toxic chemicals safe for humans but that target invertebrates, ie mosquitos – and that then wash into the waters and imperil the base of the food chain.
So, yeah, this is a disaster. Large-scale use of mosquito nets for fishing is likely to leave the rivers empty and the children malarial.
Very sad story and one more example of where humans efforts to change nature for the better end up changing it for the worse.
@Pogonip: @Roger Moore: Um, I doubt it. How old are these pups? JC said on Jan. 16 that his sister was dropping them off the next day. They didn’t have their eyes open then. Say they were born Jan 4. That would make them about 5 weeks old. Ginger was drying up and had surgery this week. She isn’t nursing anymore. Somebody had to bottle feed them and start them on soft food. Whoever is doing this (Shawn could be helping a lot), still has to stick to a hungry, exploring, growing puppy feeding schedule. I would love more puppy pics but I’d rather they were getting fed and get pics later. In a few weeks, they will eat more regular food and then we can call on his mom to get more pics.