The Department of Fisheries says the alarming depletion of Chambo and other fish species in Lake Malawi by the majority capture fisheries, could soon lead to extinction of such species if measures are not quickly put in place to stop the culprits or protect or restock the fish.
The capture fisheries largely comprise local people along the lakeshore and other water bodies who catch fish using well-known traditional methods.
According to Acting Director of Fisheries Fred Njaya, the capture fisheries is the largest employer in the fish industry in Malawi with over 180, 000 people currently benefiting from fishing, fish processing and marketing.
“About 100, 000 tonnes of fish, mainly usipa is caught by this group in a year,” Njaya told a Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus (MPCC) meeting in Lilongwe.
He continued, “The nets are also used in shallow waters where Chambo and other fish species breed, scrapping out even the younger fish”.
“The fishermen even defy regulations that prohibit them from fishing during breeding seasons because fishing is what puts bread and butter on their tables”.
Njaya added that the removal of shore vegetation by hotel investors and increased human activities upland also leads to siltation of shallow waters hence affecting the breeding of fish such as Chambo.
He said these activities have depleted Chambo over the years, reducing its harvest per year from over 50, 000 tonnes in the 1970s and 1980s to about only 3000 tonnes presently.
“Lake Malawi is one of the few water bodies in the world with over 1000 fish species. As a country, we must be proud of this and jealously guard our precious fish such as Chambo,” Njaya emphasized.
MPCC, a forum of some of Malawi’s Members of Parliament ( MPs) with interest in conserving the country’s wildlife and environment, called the Fisheries Department to the meeting to appreciate the progress the department has made with regard to the review of the Fisheries Conservation and Management Act and the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy, documents that would help bring sanity in the fishing industry.
Njaya told the meeting that the act is currently with the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs while the policy was approved in 2016.
The act, once approved by Parliament, will be read along with the policy in bringing all relevant stakeholders to work towards promoting good fishing practices to protect and restock fish species for the economic well being of the country and players in the sector.
During the meeting, Nkhata Bay Northwest Parliamentarian Commodious Nyirenda proposed stiffer punishments in the act for those who break regulations for fishing.
MPCC Co-Chair, Chitipa South Legislator Welani Chilenga, conquered with Nyirenda, saying the new legislation with stiffer penalties is indeed the solution to the current mess.
“The law will deter would be offenders,” noted Chilenga.
He added: “As a caucus, we have sourced enough money and materials to support the Fisheries Department to undertake all the required steps in the review of this law.
“We will also make sure the act quickly comes to Parliament for debate and lobby our fellow MPs to pass it”.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :