It’s curious and surprising what you notice when sitting under a large palm tree in Mozambique. Sheltering from the intense sun on Pemba’s Wimbe Beach, people arrived and departed with regularity: children ran around the beach and played in the ocean, an endless procession of women walked past with baskets and bowls balanced on their heads, men moved from person to person to sell carvings, food and drinks to anyone who looked interested.
It was the action out in the shallows of the ocean, where people were fishing, that caught my attention though…
A small group of people, mainly women, walked slowly through the water not more than 20 metres from the beach. The bright colours and peculiar behaviour instantly attracted my attention. Baskets balanced expertly on heads, the group walked through the water with plastic bowls in their hands. Filling the bowls with sea water, they threw the water into the air. The water came crashing back down onto the surface of the ocean. I didn’t understand what they were doing at first, then it dawned on me…they were using the water to ‘herd’ fish.
Eventually they formed a circle and, producing handheld fishing nets which billowed like sails in the breeze, they plunged their nets into the ocean to trap the fish. This process was repeated over and over as the group slowly made their way through the water in front of me. It was mesmerising to watch, although it was impossible to tell whether they were actually catching any fish.