Windhoek-Governor of Zambezi Region Lawrence Sampofu says the inland fishery resource is under severe pressure from individuals who exploit the resource for financial benefit to the detriment of local communities.
According Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources statistics, an estimated 5,000 metric tonnes of fish is harvested in the Zambezi annually. Local communities in the Zambezi Region depend mainly on fish for their survival and dry and fresh fish forms an integral part of their basic diet.
Fish and fisheries are an integral part of the culture and economy of many rural people in the region, but prices at the Katima Mulilo market of freshwater fish – a delicacy in the Zambezi – are said to have soared due to the current scarcity of fish.
Besides the empty stands to be found at the Katima Mulilo open market, fish prices that normally ranged between N$15 and N$20 has lately shot up to about N$30 and N$40.
Sampofu said it has been observed that illegal fishing by foreign nationals who are mostly employed by Namibians remains a challenge, despite a number of joint patrols conducted over the past year.
Sampofu noted that the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources conducted two fisheries surveys during the 2016/17 financial year and the results indicated a decline in the total fish stocks in Zambezi, Kwando and Chobe river systems.
Sampofu said the problem was evident in the lack of fish for sale at Katima Mulilo Market, except for the Nile Tilapia being imported from Zambia. “This calls for a greater concern and strict enforcement of Fisheries Act and other regulations,” he said.
The governor further said the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources continues to promote the role of inland capture fisheries and aquaculture to enhance food and nutritional security, reduce poverty, generate employment, and improve rural livelihood and increase local investments.
To minimise the over-exploitation of fish the Fisheries Ministry introduced a number of measures and regulations in the Government Gazette, among them a notice prohibiting monofilament nets as fishing gear.
It also includes a declaration on the Zambezi/Chobe river system shared with Zambia and Botswana as a fisheries reserve for a period from December 1 to February 28 every year.
The closed fishing season is one way to protect the inland fisheries stocks of the Zambezi/Chobe system during the breeding season from November to February. Sampofu said the notice was published following consultations with the regional council and the traditional authorities.
Another measure implemented includes a notice declaring Kayasa Channel in the Impalila Conservancy area a fisheries reserve.
During the 2017/18 financial year, Sampofu said the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources would continue with the promotion of aquaculture and inland fisheries to ensure sustainable utilisation and conservation of inland aquatic resources and to monitor and control illegal fishing activities within the region.
In terms of aquaculture, he said the ministry plans to produce 300,000 fingerlings and distribute 200,000 to small-scale fish farmers around the region. Also, during this financial year, he said, the ministry plans to register at least eight new small-scale fish farmer in the region.
“The ministry will also continue monitoring the status of the fisheries stocks through biological surveys, market survey and fish export monitoring at the Wenela Border Post,” he said.