Sunday, July 20, 2014


I Hate gill nets. So much. They’re one of the dirtiest fishing methods around, but if your end goal is to eat every fish you catch, it’s a pretty good choice I suppose. Our fishing surveys are meant to mimic the fishing methods of local Cocama Indians so appropriate take quotas can be set for the Reserve; but instead of keeping the fish, we count/weigh/measure each fish and put it back in the river.
The village of Bolivar is just a couple hours downriver. They're better at fishing than we are...
Ten percent mortality is written into the permit, but I suspect it’s much (MUCH) higher than that, as mangled fish become easy targets for larger predators once we “release them Live” (just slightly worse for the wear..).
So it's possible that not all the fish make it back to the river. It's really hard to let those big Oscars go...
Plus, we sometimes catch things that aren’t fish.
These armored catfish are especially hard to get out of the nets, but they sure are adorable.
When it was time to bring in the net yesterday, Ormenio and Paul kept pointing at the net and saying something that sounded like, “kooshoory!,” which I soon realized meant that hat 5 Neotropical cormorants were wrapped tightly in our nets. Two had already drowned, and I set off in the canoe with Ormenio to see how this would all play out. With the aid of a stick and a quick grab, Ormenio managed to free the live birds, and I went to work on the ones that were dead.
Ormenio assesses the situation and sets to untangling a Very Pissed-off Bird...
...and VOILA! 
Maybe just slightly worse for the wear
Recently the population of wading birds in the Pacaya Samira has skyrocketed as thousands of egrets and cormorants follow the small fish as they begin moving out of the lake (falling water levels and all). A few dead birds here and there probably isn’t going to make a big difference in the long run, but dead birds in the fishing gear does break my heart.  
I don't really know how these guys keep getting caught, but here we are.
We catch the occasional turtle here and there, but they’re easy enough to free unharmed. I’ve heard rumors they caught an anaconda in the net last year, but so far (fingers crossed) we haven’t had to deal with that (HOW WOULD YOU???). But that's a problem for Future Ellen...

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