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Fishing in troubled waters

Fishing in troubled waters

TNC went fishing with a group of local fishermen at la Ciénaga El Llanito, where they still practice the "corral" technique, a more sustainable way of fishing.


Millo has arrived late, so he can only throw his net in the middle of the circle, after all the others, forming what’s call the “crown.” When the nets are pulled out, it’s obvious that this will be a slow day.

The circle breaks up and the canoes move on to the next fishing spot. As the canoes row across the lake, the fishermen chat between the boats, cracking jokes.
Next attempt brings a little more luck; Millo catches a tilefish and then another.

This collective fishing, once typical in the Magdalena River basin, has been lost. Now, only a few river towns continue the tradition.
Fish stocks have fallen in the Magdalena River basin from 80,000 tons a year to 8,000 tons. Fishermen blame contamination, overfishing and cattle ranching for harming one of the country’s largest sources of protein.

“It’s not like it was before,” says Millo. “There are good days of fishing and other days when nothing gets caught. What can we do? Return home with empty hands?”

For Millo, the Magdalena River and its lake is everything. He finds it hard to imagine a life without fishing, as like many in this region he’s received little formal education. To save these livelihoods, a policy of sustainable fishing must be introduced before it’s too late.

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