Illicit fishing depletes stocks in Zambezi

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The decline in the volume of fish in the Zambezi Region is attributed to sophisticated fishing methods used by foreign nationals in the lakes and rivers of the region.
Foreign fishermen fishing illegally in the Zambezi use inappropriate and outlawed ways of fishing, resulting in catches of too small and big fish hampering fish reproduction.
This was revealed by chief fisheries biologist in Katima Mulilo Christopher Munwela who noted the sophisticated ways of the outlaws have affected local people and the situation is worsening.
“Local people have copied their practices as they are now competing with foreigners to catch more fish to sell, which in the end leaves us with no fish at all. These foreigners are not allowed to fish but they are doing it. The only thing they are allowed to do is buy fish from fish vendors if as stipulated by the trade laws they have legal documents to do that,” stated Munwela.
Munwela said fisheries inspectors are trying to contain illegal fishing practices but there is not enough manpower to control rivers such as the Zambezi, Chobe, Kwandor and Lake Liambezi. “We cannot do this alone no matter how we try. Community members should come on board so that we can preserve our resources instead of depleting them,” said Munwela.
“People in the Zambezi depend on the fish for their survival by selling the fish and for consumption. Depleting such resources will create extreme poverty in the region,” he added.
He said the situation was affecting especially women – mostly single mothers that have an average of two to three children to feed.
In neighbouring Zambia fishermen are not allowed to fish during certain months and they end up coming to Namibia to source fish.
When this reporter inquired whether there was a moratorium on fishing, as speculated, Munwela responded: “No ban was put in place, and we do not have the mandate and power to do so unless it is a directive from the minister himself to prohibit fishing for a certain period.”
He says no specific measures are in place apart from the regular patrols by fisheries inspectors, but adds that they have held a consultative meeting with various stakeholders including the governor Lawrence Sampofu to discuss ways to arrest the situation.
“During the consultation with stakeholders we agreed to request a closed season period when no fishing will be allowed. The suggested closing season is approaching and we only hope the minister approves the request,” he stated.

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