Zambezi Regional Governor Lawrence Sampofu has expressed concern that overfishing of the Lake Liambezi has resulted in fish stocks in the lake being depleted.
Despite the recent floods that normally replenish fish stocks, Sampofu said fish is very scarce at present, not only in the lake, but in the entire region.
He called for an urgency moratorium on fishing in the lake for at least three years to allow time for fish breeding.
“Lake Liambezi was overfished over the past three years. Up to now we still trying to put up some mechanisms to stop this overfishing,” he told New Era on Wednesday. He said the leadership’s main challenge in this regard was the headmen in the area, who employ Zambians to catch fish for them.
Sampofu said the headmen are taking the fish and selling it at Kasubalesa (the border between Zambia and DRC) in large quantities to the extent that the fish is nearly depleted.
“There’s no more fish in Lake Liambezi. We must give time for the fish to recover. We plan to put a moratorium [in place] that no one should fish there… for at least three years, so that the fish can recover,” he noted.
Asked when such a moratorium would come into force, Sampofu said he is yet to consult with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, as well the regional councillors in the region.
For the time being, he said, fisheries inspectors, the police and the community of Muyako where the lake is located, have set up a fisheries committee to assist in deterring those fishing illegally.
He said the law enforcement agencies have been conducting operations where people found fishing illegally with nets were arrested and fined up to N$800 before.
Further, Sampofu said since many of the people who are engaged in illegal fishing are Zambian nationals, the Namibian immigration officials deport them, but they always find their way back into Namibia through ungazetted routes.
“This is difficult to control, because you can’t have the police officers holding hands along the border,” he noted.
Regarding the availability of fish at Katima Mulilo open market, Sampofu said the stalls are empty and the fish available there is mainly sourced from ponds in Zambia and Botswana.
He urged residents to take care of the scarce fish resources and to avoid overfishing. Fish from the Lake Liambezi is a local delicacy, and used to be widely available at the Katima Mulilo open market at reasonable prices. Sampofu noted that a Zambezi bream, which used to cost N$40, now costs about N$100.