Fishing with Anti-Malaria nets

At the NY Times Jeffrey Gettleman reports that people are using anti-malaria nets to fish
(via Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice).

After reading the headline but not the article (not wanting to be discouraged) I thought the problem was just that the pesticide treated nets were not being used to protect the people from malaria. The solution would just be to give extra nets so there were plenty for both purposes. The article explains that fishing with such nets is itself a problem.

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,


mouthbrooders, orange fish eggs, water bugs and the occasional green frog.


the unsparing mesh, with holes smaller than mosquitoes, traps much more life than traditional fishing nets do. Scientists say that could imperil already stressed fish populations, a critical food source for millions of the world’s poorest people.

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.


permethrin is “highly toxic” to fish.


“If you’re using freshly treated nets in a smallish stream or a bay in the lake, it’s quite likely you’re going to kill fish you don’t intend to kill,” said Dan Strickman,


When asked where he had gotten his, he smiled.

“At the hospital,” he said. “Much cheaper than a real net.”

(A “real” net costs about $50, an enormous expense in a place where many people survive on a few dollars a day.)

It seems to me that the solution is to give fishermen regular fishing nets in addition to the anti-malaria bed nets. Their aim isn’t to catch water bugs and minnows, so it should be easy to crowd out the use of nets which catch too much by providing nets which catch only fish big enough to eat.

I still don’t have a clear sense of the relative severity of different problems:
1) not sleeping under the nets (extremely severe but cheaply and easily solved by giving more nets) 2) 2) pesticide on the nets (easily solved)
3) too fine mesh (fairly easily solved)
4) a ratio of people with lots of time and little food to fish such that only inefficient fishing technology prevents over-fishing (very hard to solve).

I think joint provision of anti-malaria nets and fishing nets would solve most of the problem.