Yes, there's some cool updates that I'll explain at the May auction!
Are you going to be there bud?
Any news Mattia?
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Posted 06 May 2016 - 07:31 AM
Posted 06 May 2016 - 11:44 AM
Well done everyone who has supported this initiative. Whether donating lots, money or buying lots, raffle tickets and kitchen food. Your actions are helping African cichlid conservation directly and it makes this club an even better group to be associated with.
I would have expected fundraising to taper off after the first few months but it has only gotten stronger which is fantastic!
Posted 07 May 2016 - 06:18 PM
Good idea Chris but i think the issue is getting it there. Freight is expensive and Mattia only has limited weight travelling.
Posted 07 May 2016 - 06:24 PM
Good idea Chris but i think the issue is getting it there. Freight is expensive and Mattia only has limited weight travelling.
We can always donate towards Mattia luggage allowance..
Posted 16 July 2016 - 01:04 PM
Minister Msaka at the helm of the patrol boat with Steve Roberts, organizer of the handing-over, left of him.
Photo by Martin Geerts.
Due to the minister’s tight schedule I was given just two minutes to speak to the audience, but managed to explain that the Maleri Islands are the last hold-outs of Lake Malawi National Park and that we may still have a chance to salvage some of its earlier glory (I had yet to dive around the islands and experience the hostility of the fishermen). All other areas of the Park, which has a combined shoreline of about 42 km, have been virtually stripped clean of any food fish because of uncontrolled poaching by local fishermen. The minister is in favor of strictly enforcing the 100 meters no-fishing zone around the islands, and also Leonard Sefu, chairman of Waterlands Trust and former Director of Parks, gave an encouraging address to the attendees. All were in favor of applying anti-poaching laws to the illegal fishermen, but it turns out that the words from the Malawi government need to be accompanied with deeds (see below).
The address was an open-air event. Unfortunately the media present was mainly interested in how much money the boat had cost us, much less in the plight of the fish in Lake Malawi. Photo by Martin Geerts.
The day after the ceremonial hand-over of the boat Steve Roberts, manager of Waterlands Trust, drove us and the boat to the lake where we launched it into the water near Kambiri Point. It behaved well on a choppy lake as we motored to the lodge on Nankoma Island where it will be moored temporarily.
The launch took place in very shallow water near Kambiri Point.
The park boat anchored in front of the Blue Zebra Lodge; not an ideal situation but Dimitri is working on a ranger station on Maleri Island where the boat ultimately will be anchored.
Pam, Mattia, John, and Ad preparing “anchors” for the simple buoys. Photo by Martin Geerts.
After we had about 25 rocks ready to employ we sailed out in the afternoon and started on the northern shore of Nankoma. With a rangefinder I had brought along we could rather quickly gauge the distance from shore and placed 13 buoys about 50 meters apart around about 1/3 of the island before it became too dark to continue.
Mattia tying the line from the anchor to the buoy, a plastic bottle filled with foam and a wire through it with a small yellow flag on top.
The following day we prepared another 25 rocks like we did the day before, and sailed out on midday to discover that the fishermen had already removed 12 of the 13 buoys we had placed a day earlier. Only the one close to the lodge was left in place. Needless to say that we were very disappointed by the fishermen’s hostility for something that would not hinder in any way their fishing efforts. We aborted our mission since it proved futile.
Fishermen illegally camping on Nakantenga Island. Photo by Mattia Matarrese.
While we were in Lilongwe we had taken 5 ANDs which we were planning to place at Nakantenga Island which is the furthest away from the lodge. However, with the present attitude against just a demarcation buoy and still in my mind the hostilities of last year, where a dozen policemen in full riot gear had to protect Matt and Estelle at the lodge (see previous update), I refrained from placing ANDs. I wouldn’t want to have the responsibility of violent fishermen, enraged from losing their nets, attacking the lodge and the people there.
Mattia and Ad preparing a demarcation buoy for placement. Photo by Pam Chin.
These are the positions of the permanent buoys we placed around Nankoma Island.
At most places the 100-meter line is still in shallow water not much deeper than 8 meters, but when we were placing them at the southeastern side of the island there was a spot 12 meters deep. Not a problem of course, was it not for the fact that it was pitch-black at a depth of 10 meters! I could not see my hand before my eyes and needed a light to continue. It was 3 pm and light would penetrate normally to at least 35 meters (Nankoma Island) at that time of day. The last few years, visibility at the Maleris has declined dramatically and Matt told me that it rarely is more than 5-6 meters. I know that during the rainy season the viz can be less than 1 cm(!), but it was mid June and there was very little rain last season. In fact Malawi is in a drought right now and farmers have lost their crops because of the lack of rain. Also the lake level was very low; and that is just before the windy season starts. It is expected to drop by more than a meter before the next rains in December. The last two days we spent at Cape Maclear and dived at Zimbawe Rock, Thumbi West, and Otter Island, but the visibility was never more than 5 meters.
There are several possible factors playing a role in the present murkiness of the waters in the southern portion of the lake, but in my opinion the over-fishing, actually the virtually complete removal, of the plankton-feeding cichlids of the water column has left more plankton in the water. The dense plankton blooms prevent light from penetrating to deeper layers and will force herbivores from the deeper rocky habitats to move to shallower water or to perish. A similar scenario caused Lake Victoria to collapse. Another factor that may play a role is fertilizer-enriched runoff from farmlands bordering the lake or streams that carry the nutrient-enriched water to the lake. In the southeastern arm of the lake, Maldeco, a company that first depleted the chambo (mainly Oreochromis karongae) stocks, now is involved in chambo farming in 48 huge cages floating in the lake. The feed and the waste emanating from these cages must be substantial as 750 metric tons are reportedly produced yearly. All this provides food for the algae to bloom with no fish to eat it. A few fishermen still catch chambo but nowadays a colored male has a length of about 15-20 cm while the species normally grows to a length of 30-35 cm. Small, mature males is a sign of a deficient population that lacks large, strong males allowing younger fish to mature early.
I just hope that the situation in other parts of the lake is less severe. The new president of Tanzania, John Magufuli, appears to be a strong proponent of wildlife protection and supports local authorities when dealing with illegal fishing activities such as using beach seines. To bolster his efforts in protecting biodiversity in Lake Tanganyika he has installed two more fisheries stations there (Kasanga and Ikola). I am not aware how the situation is along the Tanzanian part of Lake Malawi, but for Lake Tanganyika the new regulation entails a 2000-meter no fishing zone! Yes, illegal activity is still common along the lake’s shores, but the new fisheries officers have to produce results else they will be replaced. Magufuli is sometimes referred to as the “bulldozer president”, but Africa certainly could use more of his caliber.
When I started to visit the Zambian portion of Lake Tanganyika in the early 1990s the sand-dwelling cichlids were already eradicated from the sandy shores to a depth of about 10 meters. This was due to the intense seining efforts of the local fishermen in the 70s and 80s. The only places left to see sand-dwellers was either in water deeper than 10 meters or, for those species that only live in shallow sandy habitats, in sandy areas with large boulders preventing seines from being pulled ashore. A similar scenario had taken, or was taking, place in all other parts of the lake. A very pleasant surprise, therefore, was to find that a reversal of the situation appears to be taking place in some parts. Early June Martin, John, and I traveled along the Tanzanian shores of Lake Tanganyika and in particular along the shores of Mahale National Park. This park mainly protects the chimpanzees but includes a 2000-meter zone of the lake as well. The last 10-15 years park rangers have been very effective in repelling fishermen from park waters with burning boats and nets, and jailing perpetrators. The effect of a decade of no seining or fishing in near-shore waters was clearly visibly when I snorkeled off the beach at the park’s camp site. I saw hundreds of sand-dwellers such as Ectodus sp. ‘north’, Callochromis pleurspilus, Enantiopus melanogenys, Xenotilapia ochrogenys, and even a Bathybates graueri in water less than six feet deep. In the 30 years that I have been visiting Lake Tanganyika I had never seen this in a pure sandy habitat. So it looks like that when they finally stop a half century of plunder and extraction, populations of various species may bounce back.
Enantiopus melanogenys males in water less than six feet deep along the Mahale shore.
Since Louise Horsfall was so adamant earlier this year to involve fisheries in the extraction of cichlids from the lake, she and Chris had a surprise visit from a delegation of the fisheries department all the way from Dar es Salaam early April. Louise had sent them a letter explaining how concerned we all are about the extraction of a number of species and that there was no control preventing their exportation from the country. The officials were deeply concerned about how things happened with the nine different teams exporting fish from the lake and asked for help. Not a single one of them had ever seen a photo of a Tanganyika cichlid and Chris suggested that we make a sort of flip file with the endangered species and spread that among all fishery stations as well as the guys at the airport. In the meantime we have made such a file and many sets have been printed and laminated, and brought to Dar es Salaam. The Fund has also sent 12 copies of my Tanganyika book to be distributed to all fisheries stations along the lake. Chris further writes: “As a final farewell, I showed him [Mr. Bugoma, head of fisheries] our tanks and told him that you and the foundation had paid for them. He asked why you would do that and I said that it was all the people who know and understand what is happening here, are concerned that there are four species that we all think might become extinct, so we wanted to keep some here to ensure that they don’t. He was alarmed and concerned, and I think it really helped him get an understanding of how serious the matter is and how worried we all are.” Needless to say that the fisheries department is totally on our side and we have to support them with any suggestions about how to control the export of rare species without jeopardizing the ornamental fish business in Tanzania as a whole.
After a setback earlier this year when Chris discovered (in time, fortunately) that the tower he had constructed to hold the 5000-liter container would not hold a full tank indefinitely, he had to tear it down and construct another one with a rock base and concrete blocks (see photo).
The new water tower supplying the breeding tanks with fresh lake water. Photo by Louise Horsfall.
He also installed the solar pump and set up a solar panel to drive the pump. It is astounding to hear that the pump delivers 35,000 liters a day, seven times the tank’s capacity! So there will be ample water changing when all is up and running.
In contrast to the drought situation in Malawi, Lake Tanganyika received more than a normal amount of rain this year. The solar panel to power the pump, which was placed early in the year, now sits in the water. Photo by Louise Horsfall.
Chris also welded the shade covers for each of the eight tanks, however, when he filled them up it turned out that the builder had forgotten to waterproof the bottoms of each tank… They leaked about a foot of water overnight. So now Chris is drying out the tanks so that a new waterproofing can be applied to the bottom of each. Slowly, slowly, but we are getting there.
If the bottom of the vats would have been watertight there would already have been fish in them. Now they have to dry out before waterproof cement is poured on the bottom. Photo by Louise Horsfall.
Mattia Matarrese is a very dedicated fundraiser and together with the Perth Cichlid Society (Australia) a total of $2400 was donated to the Fund! He also volunteered placing buoys in Malawi this year (he actually did most of the work) and donated two additional pneumatic drills and a small drone with which Matt at the Maleri islands can observe illegal fishing activities. Thank you, Mattia, for all your support!
An auction organized by Wojciech Sierakowski for Klub Malawi in Poland produced $826 for the Fund! Thank you, Wojciech! Several other concerned aquarists have contributed in an important way to the cause and although I have mentioned and thanked them before I would like to thank them again for their continued donations. Thank you, Steve Edie, Christian Alfredson, and Patrick Tawil!
Last but not least I would like to thank Kelly Randall and Omega One for their sustained support of the Fund by contributing a portion of each package of Frozen Cichlid Formula!
There are more developments that I need to report about, such as the design of a new program (in Tanzania) involving counting certain species in the lake in order to scientifically document possible declines and the cooperation of a new breeder in Malawi for breeding and reintroducing endangered cichlids, but I want to save that for the next update when more specific plans have been made. Even with the decline of Lake Malawi I feel we need to make sure that none of the species lost was caused by the ornamental fish industry.
As always thank you for your support and concern.
Posted 16 July 2016 - 04:30 PM
Posted 16 July 2016 - 05:38 PM
Awesome work well done Mattia and PCS and members... also non members who have purchased SGF donations at Auctions etc
Also a special thankyou to all who donate to the SGF to make it all possible
Posted 19 October 2016 - 08:54 AM
Been reading up on this the past couple of days. So awesome.
Fantastic work everyone involved. Hell I'm jealous of Mattias. What an amazing experience to have.
How do I go about making a donation myself? I need to get around to renewing my membership here too.
Posted 19 October 2016 - 02:51 PM
Posted 19 October 2016 - 02:57 PM
Is there anyway I can just make a paypal donation?
I just noticed there is one on the foundation official page, should I just do that direct to the fund and not bother paying it to you guys?
Posted 19 October 2016 - 03:12 PM
Posted 19 October 2016 - 04:33 PM
Yes a donation via our Paypal and write "Stuart Grant Fund" in the notes area so the treasurer knows it all goes to SGF.
Thanks for your kind donation. We have an auction in a couple of weeks where there will be special SGF donation lots, books and 20% of Raffle and Kitchen go to SGF as well.
Come along and join us.
Posted 06 November 2016 - 06:08 PM
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