Insecticide-treated malaria nets meant to keep mosquitos out are contributing to an eJP-MOSQUITO3-superJumbo-1pidemic of overfishing in Africa, raising concerns about health, the environment, and local economies. Faced with hunger, residents are using the nets not for protection from mosquitos, but rather, for fishing. And the mosquito nets are effective when used for fishing: the finer mesh traps more life than traditional nets, leading to depletion of water life, and in some cases, conflict with those who fish for a living.

Further complicating the issue, the insecticide used on the nets may pose a threat to human and aquatic health, and water quality. The issue is also causing tension in philanthropic circles, which has distributed millions of nets in Africa.

Jeffrey Gettelman reports for the New York Times:

“People are very defensive about this topic,” said Amy Lehman, an American physician and the founder of the Lake Tanganyika Floating Health Clinic, which conducted the study. “The narrative has always been, ‘Spend $10 on a net and save a life,’ and that’s a very compelling narrative.

“But what if that net is distributed in a waterside, food-insecure area where maybe you won’t be affecting the malaria rate at all and you might actually be hurting the environment?” she said. “It’s a lose-lose. And that’s not a very neat story to tell.”

A terrific piece about unintended consequences and the issue of intractable hunger and poverty. Read the full article at the New York Times by clicking here; there is also a video.