Sifelani Tsiko — Environment Editor
The environment ministers of Zimbabwe and Zambia have launched new discussions to reduce overfishing and improve fisheries management on Lake Kariba as part of efforts to promote conservation and sustainable use of resources on the largest artificial lake and reservoir in the world by volume.
Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu and Zambian Minister of Green Economy and Environment Collins Nzovu held the discussions on the sidelines of the Fifth session which has just ended in Nairobi, Kenya.
Among the main issues discussed was the problem of overfishing which threatens the fisheries of both countries.
Artisanal fishers from both countries were violating agreements reached by the two countries in 2014.
A technical committee on the development and management of Lake Kariba fisheries and aquaculture has recommended that Zimbabwe and Zambia reduce the number of fishing rigs operating in Lake Kariba to ensure the survival of the industry .
The countries had agreed on the number of rigs each country could deploy on Lake Kariba, with the sustainable maximum of 500 being split so that Zambia hosts 225 and Zimbabwe 275.
The slight extra figure attributed to Zimbabwe is due to the fact that most of the great eastern basin of Lake Kariba is on the Zimbabwean side.
“However, Zimbabwe currently has 429 rigs, while Zambia has 1,500. This, among other fishing methods, creates overfishing, fish kills, small fish being farmed,” the minister said. Ndlovu.
Besides overfishing, pollution of the Zambezi River was also threatening fish stocks.
The Kapenta Producers Association of Zimbabwe says there has been a sharp decline in stocks of kapenta, a key fishery resource both directly for harvesting and a food fish for other species.
According to the association, this has led to an increase in the price of fish.
At its peak in the 1990s, according to the association, fishing rigs made between five and 15 trays per vessel, but they now only catch two trays per vessel or even less.
In 2020, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) stopped issuing new fishing licenses to curb fish depletion.
Millions of people in the Zambezi Basin region eat kapenta daily, and thousands of fishermen make a living from catching it.
But overfishing – coupled with an increase in the number of introduced freshwater crayfish, which eat kapenta eggs and hatchlings – threatens livelihoods, jobs and food security.
In addition to the large number of unsustainable fishing boats, poachers who allegedly flooded Lake Kariba at night also added to the problems.
Artisanal fisheries play an important role in improving livelihoods, creating jobs and contributing to food security in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Fishing communities in both countries are highly dependent on natural resources, which are climate-sensitive.
Marine experts claim that food insecurity, wildlife attacks, lack of access to information systems, lack of fishing equipment, existence of predatory crayfish, poor co-management of the lake and shrinking fishing limits are now threatening Lake Kariba’s fish stocks.
They urge governments to develop small-scale fisheries policies that can positively improve livelihoods and food security.
More than a third of the world’s fish stocks are overexploited and the problem is particularly acute in developing countries, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said in a 2020 report.