Individuals found with fish or fishing illegally during the current closed fishing period that started in December and which ends next month will be prosecuted and fined.
This is according to the Ministry of Fisheries’ chief biologist, Christopher Munwela, who informed New Era that his ministry is aware of illegal, nocturnal fishing taking place, despite the fishing ban that is in place to enable depleted fish stocks to recover.
“All those that will be caught will be prosecuted. As for now I cannot really state what punishment they will get, as penalties vary from situation to situation. Whatever the situation is now, the ban will remain in force.
“We want to preserve our fish species and avoid over-fishing. The same people that are creating stories now are the same people that will blame us when the fish is depleted,” Munwela said.
He said this while giving an update on the water level in the Zambezi Region specifically. Lake Liambezi is believed to be drying up and the fish is being left to go to waste, as the locals are not allowed to catch the stranded fish.
“I was at the lake on Friday and it is not the case that the lake is drying. Instead, the water levels have dropped significantly. It is only pools in Linyanti and Sangwali that are drying up and we are in consistent communication with the community to spot the pools that are drying so that arrangements for harvesting can be made. The harvesting will be done under the supervision of the ministry and traditional leaders to make sure the fish is not sold,” Munwela explained.
“At the moment people should find their own means of sustaining themselves. What if the fish was not there? What would they have done? We are trying to preserve these fish for the future. We have even communicated with our Zambian counterparts not to allow any fishermen to cross the border before the closed fishing period,” stated Munwela, in response to recent concerns from the local residents that voiced their disapproval to the fisheries ministry for denying them the right to catch fish, even under the difficult conditions produced by the current drought.
The locals, who rely on fish as a crucial part of their diet, say they are being treated unfairly as the fish is left to waste, and that in all fairness they should be allowed to collect and utilise the fish and not let it go to waste.