food / travel

In Mozambique, A Stunning Archipelago Bets On Conservation

The Quirimbas islands in northwestern Mozambique is the front line in the war on over-fishing.

On Ibo, one of the Quirimbas islands in northewestern Mozambique
On Ibo, one of the Quirimbas islands in northewestern Mozambique
Emanuele Bompan

IBO â€" “This is a protected sanctuary!”

Abdallah is shouting, as he swiftly makes a sharp turn in his boat. Moments later, he is reaching his arm out to grab the swimmer’s crumpled snorkel mask, and then begins pulling in the fishing net attached to his swimsuit, filled with the day’s illegal catch.

The unauthorized fisherman, an 18-year-old local, realizes too late he has been caught. “We have to seize everything, fishing here is prohibited,” Shea Anli, who works alongside Abdallah, tells the teen. “I’m a ranger.”

Other illegal fishermen, noticing the arrival of the marked boat, scramble to the shore. Abdallah catches two of them, and Anli sends them off with a warning: “It’s illegal to fish in the nature reserve, don’t come back here.”

Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common scene in these islands, among one of the many marine sanctuaries of Quirimbas National Park in northern Mozambique, where fishing is banned.

The park’s 1,500 square kilometers of islands â€" protected by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) â€" boast spectacular white sand beaches and a virtually untouched environment, with an extensive coral reef and marine wildlife including dugongs, dolphins, sea turtles, whales, sharks and over 375 different species of fish.

The islands’ bewildering biodiversity is the reason why illegal fishing here is so popular, both among locals â€" who use traditional fishing practices aboard dhows, the outrigger canoes common in East Africa â€" and large commercial trawlers, who rarely show respect for marine sanctuaries.

Check your fish stocks

“They come from China, Tanzania and the Nampula region of Mozambique,” says Anli, who has been a ranger for years. “Large ships shouldn’t fish here and the coast guard should do something when they see them, but they don’t have the means.”

At the very least, the rangers’ presence helps to prevent small-scale illegal fishing and to teach locals how to respect the protected areas. Today there are 102 park guardians, many of whom are also involved in an elephant conservation program on the park’s small strip of mainland adjacent to the islands.

Ibo, Matemo and the other islands in the Quirimbas were once Portuguese colonies, and were not known as tourist destinations. Now they are part of a project named Pharo, designed to protect the park’s coastal and marine habitats and foster economic development and food security on the islands.

The project includes education and training programs for local fishermen as well as a monitoring effort to combat illegal overfishing. There are 18 fishermen’s councils â€" known as CCP in Portuguese â€" spread across the islands, with members elected to the assemblies from local communities. For too long, locals found it difficult to fish after intensive trawling decimated the area’s stocks.

“Our role is to protect the fish stocks and marine sanctuaries,” says Marjani Abdul Remane, village chief of Matemo island. “The whole community can be responsible, especially now that fishing has returned.”

Still, agriculture in Ibo has been expanding in recent years due to the fishing downturn, especially production of honey from the mangroves and the prized local variety of coffee, Coffea racemosa Loureiro. The rare coffee plant has become popular for its intense herbal aroma and low levels of caffeine.

The project's final objective is to develop sustainable ecotourism in the islands. There are a few good hotels in the archipelago but they are all owned by foreigners, so tourism is heavily supported as an alternative to fishing, the only industry driving the local economy today. But with its untouched beauty and hospitable culture, interest in the Quirimbas archipelago is sure to grow.

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Paying tribute to the victims of the attack in Kongsberg

Terje Bendiksby/NTB Scanpix/ZUMA
Carl-Johan Karlsson

The bow-and-arrow murder of five people in the small Norwegian city of Kongsberg this week was particularly chilling for the primitive choice of weapon. And police are now saying the attack Wednesday night is likely to be labeled an act of terrorism.

Still, even though the suspect is a Danish-born convert to Islam, police are still determining the motive. Espen Andersen Bråthen, a 37-year-old Danish national, is previously known to the police, both for reports of radicalization, as well as erratic behavior unrelated to religion.

Indeed, it remains unclear whether religious beliefs were behind the killings. In an interview with Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, police attorney Ann Iren Svane Mathiassens said Bråthen has already confessed to the crimes, giving a detailed account of the events during a three-hour interrogation on Thursday, but motives are yet to be determined.

Investigated as terrorism 

Regardless, the murders are likely to be labeled an act of terror – mainly as the victims appear to have been randomly chosen, and were killed both in public places and inside their homes.

Mathiassens also said Bråthen will undergo a comprehensive forensic psychiatric examination, which is also a central aspect of the ongoing investigation, according to a police press conference on Friday afternoon. Bråthen will be held in custody for at least four weeks, two of which will be in isolation, and will according to a police spokesperson be moved to a psychiatric unit as soon as possible.

Witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.

Police received reports last year concerning potential radicalization. In 2017, Bråthen published two videos on Youtube, one in English and one in Norwegian, announcing that he's now a Muslim and describing himself as a "messenger." The year prior, he made several visits to the city's only mosque, where he said he'd received a message from above that he wished to share with the world.

Previous criminal history 

In 2012, he was convicted of aggravated theft and drug offenses, and in May last year, a restraining order was issued after Bråthen entered his parents house with a revolver, threatening to kill his father.

The mosque's chairman Oussama Tlili remembers Bråthen's first visit well, as it's rare to meet Scandinavian converts. Still, he didn't believe there was any danger and saw no reason to notify the police. Tlili's impression was rather that the man was unwell mentally, and needed help.

According to a former neighbor, Bråthen often acted erratically. During the two years she lived in the house next to him — only 50 meters from the grocery store where the attacks began — the man several times barked at her like a dog, threw trash in the streets to then pick it up, and spouted racist comments to her friend. Several other witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.

The man used a bow and arrow to carry the attack

Haykon Mosvold Larsen/NTB Scanpix/ZUMA

Police criticized

Norway, with one of the world's lowest crime rates, is still shaken from the attack — and also questioning what allowed the killer to hunt down and kill even after police were on the scene.

The first reports came around 6 p.m. on Wednesday that a man armed with bow and arrow was shooting inside a grocery store. Only minutes after, the police spotted the suspect; he fired several times against the patrol and then disappeared while reinforcements arrived.

The attack has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms

In the more than 30 minutes that followed before the arrest, four women and one man were killed by arrows and two other weapons — though police have yet to disclose the other arms, daily Aftenposten reports. The sleepy city's 27,000 inhabitants are left wondering how the man managed to evade a full 22 police patrols, and why reports of his radicalization weren't taken more seriously.

With five people killed and three more injured, Wednesday's killing spree is the worst attack in Norway since far-right extremist Anders Breivik massacred 77 people on the island of Utøya a decade ago.

Unarmed cops

As questions mount over the police response to the attack, with reports suggesting all five people died after law enforcement made first contact with the suspect, local police have said it's willing to submit the information needed to the Bureau of Investigation to start a probe into their conduct. Police confirmed they had fired warning shots in connection to the arrest which, under Norwegian law, often already provides a basis for an assessment.

Wednesday's bloodbath has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms — the small country being one of only 19 globally where law enforcement officers are typically unarmed, though may have access to guns and rifles in certain circumstances.

Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert and professor at the Swedish Defence University, noted that police in similar neighboring countries like Sweden and Denmark carry firearms. "I struggle to understand why Norwegian police are not armed all the time," Ranstorp told Norwegian daily VG. "The lesson from Utøya is that the police must react quickly and directly respond to a perpetrator during a life-threatening incident."

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