Coelacanth threatened by commercial fishing fleets

Endangered Species CoelacanthIt is not every day that you come face to face with a dinosaur dating back 400 million years, but for the fishermen in Kigombe on Tanzania's northern coast it has become almost routine.

In the middle of Kigombe, a village of simple huts on this breathtaking edge of the Indian Ocean, a young fisherman stood proudly before a large green plastic container. Ceremoniously he reached inside and hauled out a monster of a fish, slapping its 60kg (132lb) of flesh on a table, where three children gawped at its almost human-like 'feet'. This is a living fossil, a fish with limbs, a creature once believed extinct: a coelacanth.

Now it seems that man may have discovered the fish just to eradicate it, as ever deeper trawling throws up serious fears for the already dwindling populations of the fish, which lives at depths of between 100 and 300 metres (328ft to 984ft).

The appearance of these creatures off the Tanzanian coast is a dramatic and as yet unfinished chapter in the extraordinary story of the coelacanth, an ancient fish that was 'rediscovered'. The coelacanth evolved 400 million years ago - by contrast Homo sapiens has been around for less than 200,000 years - and was believed to have gone the way of the dinosaurs until one was caught off the coast of South Africa in 1938.

Hassan Kolombo, a programme co-ordinator and his colleague, Solomon Makoloweka, said they had been pressuring the Tanzanian government to limit trawlers' activities. He said: 'I suppose we should be grateful to these trawlers, because they have revealed this amazing and unique fish population. but we are concerned they could destroy these precious things. We want the government to limit their activity and to help fund a proper research programme so that we can learn more about the coelacanths and protect them.'

The Guardian.