Chambo Restoration on Course in Lake Malawi

Chambo Restoration on Course in Lake Malawi

Until the 1980s, chambo fish was among the top prides of Malawi. Tourists could not afford to leave the country without tasting the delicious chambo. But alas! The fish declined in numbers and there are many reasons for this. Illegal fishing is one of them.

People have been catching fish without following the fisheries laws and regulations and enforcement of the law has been a serious problem.

Threatened with the depleting numbers of chambo in the lake, the Department of Fisheries under the Ministry of Agriculture facilitated the establishment of local fisheries conservation structures called Beach Village Committees (BVCs) along Lake Malawi.

The BVCs also have their own bylaws aimed at controlling fishing activities in the lake.

One of these structures is Michesi BVC at Michesi village in the area of Traditional Authority Mponda in Mangochi District.

During an interface with the Association of Environmental Journalists (AEJ) in Malawi, chairperson of Michesi BVC Jordan Kanyerere boasted that they are doing a lot of things in controlling illegal fishing on the lake.

He said through enforcement of the bylaws, chambo fish stocks are now increasing.

“These days, a fisherman can catch over ten dozen chambo in a day using a mere hook and line, yet in the past few years one could hardly catch even a single dozen. Some fishers were leaving the lake with only one or two chambo fish,” said Kanyerere.

Kanyerere said fishers found using illegal materials such as monofilament gill nets (ntazi), nkacha, mosquito nets and any chemical are punished using the bylaws and the confiscated materials are destroyed through burning.

“We, however, are worried with the slow and weak enforcement approaches by the Fisheries Department. This is a setback to our efforts in the fight against illegal fishing in the lake,” lamented Kanyerere.

Principal Fisheries Officer for Monkey Bay Capture Centre Salim M’balaka concurred with Kanyerere on the restoration of chambo fish.

“Though not officially released, preliminary results of a joint Biomass Assessment Survey we conducted with our Mozambican counterparts towards the end of 2023 (October, November and December show that chambo is now available in the lake,” said M’balaka.

On weak enforcement of fisheries laws and regulations, M’balaka attributed the challenge to inadequate finances to respond to illegal fishing activities as quickly as possible.

He, however, said through the Restoring Fisheries for Sustainable Livelihoods in Lake Malawi (REFRESH) project which PACT has been implementing in all the districts along the lake with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the department is registering some gains.

“They have been supporting the department through capacity building of fisheries officials and BVCs and other equipment,” said M’balaka.

Group Village Head Michesi said together with his village heads, their role and responsibility are to support the enforcement of the bylaws.

The interface was part of a four-day workshop organized by REFRESH with funding from USAID through PACT.

Pact Communications Officer Veronica Hami is worried with low funding to the Fisheries Department which she believes is affecting its operations.

“I think you, the media, has a role to lobby for more funding towards this department for it to execute its activities effectively,” said Hami.

Through collaboration among different stakeholders, it is very possible to restore chambo fish in Lake Malawi, she says, what is more important is for the government to adequately fund the Department of Fisheries to address illegal, unprotected and unregulated fishing practices on Lake Malawi.

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Last modified on Monday, 25/03/2024

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