“For our rivers and lakes to be sufficiently stocked to the levels experienced in the 1970s, we need to implement a fishing ban for 12 months.”
This is the call made by Luapula provincial minister, Nickson Chilangwa. “It is the the only way to replenish the serious depletion of fish stocks in the province”, he said.
The minister said that the three-month annual ban was not sufficient to address the over-fishing that had occurred in the last decades. He added that it did not hold in most cases, anyway. Chilangwa said that the impact on the fishers could be mitigated by providing them with the means to farm crops and other products.
IN LINE WITH AGRICULTURE PLAN
Chilangwa said an extended fishing ban would be in line with government’s position to place agriculture at the center of diversified growth. The diversified growth could not happen if the fisheries sector was depressed.
All fishing areas – Lake Bangweulu, Mweru-wa-ntipa, Mweru-Luapula, Lukanga Swamps, Lusuwashi, Lower Zambezi and Chambeshi – are closed from December to the beginning of March, with the exception of Lake Kariba and Lake Tanganyika. The ban is put in place to avoid fishing during the beading season to ensure the replenishing of fish stocks.
POPULATION PUTS PRESSURE ON FISHING STOCKS
The Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) survey of Zambian fish stocks and fishing practices, says the country has a fish deficit caused by a growing population and increasing demand for protein. This has led to overfishing and the use of unsustainable fishing methods in some parts of Zambia.
According to IAPR, the falling fish stocks caused the decline in the per capita fish consumption, which has dropped from 12kg/person/annum to 10,3kg/person/annum.
The think-tank has recommended effective regulation and active monitoring, including frequent fish audits in major lakes. The report also proposed that feed ingredients be zero vat rated and that aquaculture be promoted.
Some commentators, however, question whether the ban actually contributes to replenishing the fish populations.
“Many fishermen who depend on fishing do their fishing at night during the ban and sell their catch in the early hours of the day to avoid being arrested,” said Daniel Mulozi, a fisherman of Kafue.
Some observers have called for consideration of other methods to preserve the fishing stocks, especially in light of the fact that fish stocks had been maintained for centuries, without effecting bans.