Net Loss

Poor African fishermen are destroying their habitat using free nets from do-gooders.

There are ~200 million cases of malaria each year, ~90% of which occur in Africa. The parasite responsible for malaria is carried by mosquitos, which inject the malarial microbe when they bite. To combat malaria, health organizations and philanthropists have distributed hundreds of millions of free mosquito nets.

Fishing gear is an expense that poor Africans call ill afford. So, they use free mosquito nets, which work great, as they have a small mesh which scoops up everything. “The use of mosquito nets for fishing is now commonplace across the globe,” report ecologists Benjamin L. Jones and Richard K.F. Unsworth.

The result is that shallow-water fisheries, notably coastal seagrass meadows, are methodically being wiped out. Without fish to keep seagrass meadows clean, the seagrass dies, decimating the ecosystem.

Jones & Unsworth: “As a critical habitat for a diverse array of fish and invertebrates, seagrass meadows provide food security and livelihoods for coastal communities across the Indo-Pacific region. Seagrass fisheries are of fundamental importance to coastal communities in emerging economies because they are shallow and close to shore. Seagrass meadows provide a nursery function, and as such harbour diverse and abundant populations of juveniles. Mosquito nets potentially harvest a large proportion of these juveniles. While smaller species may provide vital nutrition to those in poverty, the removal of juveniles is a recipe for overfishing which can induce trophic cascades and threaten the sustainability of the resource.”

The implicit point of view expressed here – that Nature is primarily a resource for human exploitation – is the mind-set source of the sickness that propels the mass extinction event underway.


Benjamin L. Jones & Richard K.F. Unsworth, “The perverse fisheries consequences of mosquito net malaria prophylaxis in East Africa,” Ambio (11 November 2019).

Brian Ownes, “People are using mosquito nets for fishing – and it works too well,” New Scientist (11 November 2019).