By Kondwani Magombo – MANA
Pact Malawi has warned that the future of fishing in Lake Malawi remains bleak as rules and regulations for managing the lake’s biodiversity and ecosystem are not being fully followed.
Malawi News Agency (MANA) reported on Monday that Pact Malawi Chief of Party, Allan Brooks shot the warning during the official rollout of a project, Restoring Fisheries for Sustainable Livelihoods in Lake Malawi (REFRESH), at the beach community of Msaka in the area of Senior Chief Nankumba in Mangochi.
Brooks described Lake Malawi as the only water body in the world debatably with the highest freshwater biodiversity and ecosystem which he warned if not properly managed will be entirely lost.
“At the moment fisheries has become unstable because we have single fisheries species manly Utaka and Usipa and that is a big problem,” Brooks said adding that, “But the situation can be reversed if we bring in rules that everybody can abide to and if we stop destroying breeding areas.”
He said another challenge was that with the dwindling fish catches, established commercial fishermen are increasing the number of boats on the lake to expand their catches thereby making the situation even worse.
The Pact-Malawi Chief of Party added that within the USAID-funded REFRESH project there’s a component that will ensure that people venture into other entrepreneurial activities and not just fishing.
The project aims at improving coordination network for the local fisheries authorities in the eight districts of Lake Malawi and at national level to ensure that fishing regulations are followed.
“If we abide by the laws then we can have better fisheries for all and this can best be enforced by the local fishing structures such as the Beach Village Committees,” Brooks explained.
The REFRESH project is set to build on the communities’ successes gained from the FISH project, another Pact-Malawi project which built social, ecological and economic resilience to climate change and significantly improved biodiversity conservation through sustainable fisheries co-management.
The new project will mainly aim at conserving the fresh water biodiversity of Lake Malawi by restoring natural fisheries productivity and ensuring that aquatic habitats are healthy and well managed.
The Project seeks to ensure that endemic fish populations are self-sustaining, and that Lake Malawi fisheries are managed sustainably by 2024.
Mangochi District Council Chair, Allan Mmadi, welcomed the project and urged all the chiefs along the lake to embrace it and work closely with the project to achieve the intended goals.
He said that the amount of catches of fish in Lake Malawi has indeed reached worrisome levels and that a project like REFRESH remains the only way out to correct the situation.