The Namibian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources says the continuation of fishing operations in Zambia has rendered the tri-nation Zambezi River annual fishing ban ineffective.
The annual Zambezi River regional fishing ban runs from 1 December to 1 March to allow fish to breed and stabilise stocks. The ban, which excludes recreational angling, is supposed to be implemented by Botswana, Zambia and Namibia.
However, Namibian Fisheries and Marine Resources spokesperson De Wet Siluka told local media that while fishermen in Botswana and Namibia have enforced the ban, fishermen on the Zambian side of the river have continuously defied the moratorium.
“The challenge we are facing is that despite the closure of the fishing season, operators on the Zambian side are still fishing. This is because our Zambian counterparts do not undertake patrols like we do. While patrolling, we see Zambians fishing on their side of the river, and there is nothing we can do to stop them,” Siluka said.
He said the 3 month moratorium was set after fishing industry stakeholders from the 3 countries agreed on the need to stabilise dwindling fish populations and ensure fishing remains a sustainable source of livelihood for regional communities.
Despite regular patrols that continue during the fishing season, Namibia’s anti-fish poaching patrols on the Zambezi have been handicapped by the lack of riverine patrol boats.
The only patrol boat available in the country broke down years ago, and the government has failed to raise funds for its repair to date. Presently, fisheries inspectors only undertake foot patrols along the river banks.
ILLEGAL NETTING THREATENS ANGLING INDUSTRY
According to Namibian and Botswana-based tourism operators, the number of angler tourists arriving at fishing camps along the Zambezi River has declined over the past 3 years as fish stock dwindled.
The decline has been blamed on Zambian poachers, who operate throughout the year using illegal fishing methods and prohibited nets. Apart from plundering fish resources, the use of illegal nets is causing wider ecological damage by killing other marine species like crocodiles, otters and cormorants.
Apart from illegal fishing practices, conservationists have blamed the decline of Zambezi fish stocks on very little regard for the environment by local communities and outsider competition for fishing resources, leading to the commercialisation of a largely subsistence-based means of livelihood.