WINDHOEK – Illegal fishing in the rivers and lake of Zambezi Region tends to become a headache for fisheries inspectors during the closed fishing period of November to March each year.
Zambezi Regional Governor Lawrence Sampofu said, in an interview, that illegal fishing takes place in the Zambezi River, Chobe River, Lake Lyambezi, Kwando River, Linyanti River and another river channel at the eastern Kabbe floodplains.
He stressed that such activities hamper the purpose of the closed fishing season, which is to allow fish to recover as severe overfishing has taken place over the past years.
“They go fishing at night. This practice is not only illegal but very dangerous because of the risks involved. We lost about three people who were attacked by hippos while fishing illegally during the closed season,” he revealed.
The dwindling fish stocks in Lake Lyambezi and the inward rivers in the entire Zambezi Region last year left fishermen despondent – particularly at the lake as it was once considered the region’s main source of fish.
Since the beginning of last year the previously common Zambezi bream has been scarce, despite the fact that fishing was off limits between November and March, but it appears ever since the fishing season reopened there have been no fish at all.
The fishing season is now open as of March 2 up until November 30.
Sampofu said to avoid detection by the authorities people who are engaged in illegal fishing sell the fish door to door in the evenings.
The fisheries directorate of operations based in Zambezi Region, which is responsible for controlling inland fisheries activities, has conducted 237 land patrols in Zambezi, covering a distance of 58,171 kilometres (km), and also conducted 20 river patrols, covering a distance of 1,028 km.
Fisheries inspectors issued a total 42 fines, of which 14 were issued for failure to produce a fishing licence and two were issued for engaging in fishing without being the holder of a fishing licence.
“People are not supposed to fish with smaller nets because they catch even smaller fish that are supposed to be breeding. Now that the fishing season is open we urge residents to be careful of hippos and crocodiles. They should use the prescribed nets and also have fishing permits, which they can obtain from the fisheries ministry,” he cautioned.
Asked on whether Lake Lyambezi is also facing a crisis of overfishing, Sampofu said the water level is very high which makes it difficult to catch fish.