The Department of Fisheries says it is trying its best to make sure that fishermen do not use mosquito nets for fishing in a bid to reduce the decrease of fish species in Lake Malawi.
This was established during a training for Environmental Journalists in Mangochi where journalists were briefed on the status of the fisheries industry as well understanding the economic impact caused by illegal fishing practices and measures put in place to address them.
During the training, Environmental journalists were taken on a tour along Lake Malawi at Chimphamba village in Traditional Authority Nankumba where the department of fisheries in conjunction with the communities surrounding the lake formed Beach Village Committees (BVC) which aims at protecting and sustaining Lake Malawi and its inhabitants like fish.
Speaking to Malawi24, Governance and Capacity Development specialist FISH project from Pact Malawi Dick Kachilonda said their department is making sure that fishermen and communities are civic educated on the dangers of using mosquito nets when fishing and the importance of using recommended nets through BVC meetings to make sure that people along the lake are aware of its dangers.
“As the department of fisheries we make sure that the tendency of using mosquito nets when fishing is dealt with by using awareness messages in radio programs, BVC meetings and the chiefs which is a way of using participatory approach,” said Kachilonda.
He added that when fishermen use mosquito nets they end up catching small fish as well as eggs which is leading to the decrease of a number of fish in Lake Malawi.
Kachilonda further said that it is important for people to know that mosquito nets are there to help them prevent Malaria hence the nets must not be used for catching fish.
According to Kachilonda, there is a danger of overfishing on the lake as there are more people in need of fish relying on the same lake.
However, chairperson for Beach Village Committee Leonard Banda said as a committee they make sure that they monitor fishermen so that they do not use mosquito nets but use recommended nets for catching fish.
”We do not allow fishermen to use mosquito nets and we work together with the fisheries department as well as the chiefs and marines to make sure that we stop those who use mosquito nets for fishing,” said Banda.
He added that they are committed to do the job of making sure that fishermen do not use mosquito nets when fishing but the challenge they experience is that their counterparts use more advanced boats and they use boats that cannot with stand the storm on the lake.
He also said that fish project trainers have helped them a lot as well as the chiefs in civic educating them on the importance of protecting fish in the lake but their plea is to urge various stakeholders to come in and provide them with engine boats which will help them patrol the lake without problems.
However, much as the lake is a source of employment, food as well as potable water to the communities most women married to fishermen are in a worrisome state where they fear losing their marriages to sex workers.
One of the women from Chimphamba village Traditional Authority Nankumba in Mangochi Edna Mkandawire who is also one of the members of the BVC’s said most fishermen forget their families when they sell fish and they end up going to drinking joints where they meet sex workers and stay there for days.
”Most men when they get money after selling fish they forget about their families and go to drinking joints where they also encounter sex workers after the money is finished they go back to their families which is a worrisome situation,” said Mkandawire.
She however said that as women who are members of the BVC, they take a participatory role in making sure that fish is conserved in the lake and they meet once in two weeks to clean up the shores of the lake.
Despite members of the BVC claiming that they clean the shores every two weeks, the lake is in a devastating state whereby sanitation is a challenge, as one would draw near to the lake they would see garbage along the lake whilst others are washing dishes as well as bathing in it.
Fish constitutes 45% of animal protein, 4% of Gross Domestic Products and provides employment to more than 500,000 people and Malawi also has 14% of global fresh water fish biodiversity and Lake Malawi, with 800 species, is the most bio-diverse lake in the world.