Kariba fish stocks headache

There is no joy for Kariba fishermen who are watching helplessly as fish stocks in the water body continue to deplete.
For a long time, the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen and their families have largely been dependent on the lake.

For the past seven years, kapenta fish harvests decreased dramatically, causing alarm and financial instability.

Mr Edward Seremwe, a member of the Chawara Fishing Co-operative, summed up the desperation within the kapenta fishing industry.

“We used to harvest between 500 and 1 000 kilogrammes of kapenta every night but that number has since gone down to less than 40 kilogrammes.

“The catches are decreasing with each passing year. We are only coming down here to while away time,” Mr Seremwe said.

He said the fishermen are making huge losses.

“We are using 80 litres of diesel only to harvest as little as 20 kilogrammes.

“We are forced to sell our catch at higher prices when compared to those that sell on the Zambian side.

A kilogramme of kapenta is being sold for $6, up from the $4 the same commodity was being sold for two years ago.

Speaking on behalf of the 10 co-operatives that fish in the lake, Mr Seremwe blamed the depletion of the stocks on the use of herbicides.

“The application of herbicides for weed control has brought this misery.

“When the herbicides were applied, we started harvesting blood-stained kapenta.

The fish stocks went down gradually ever since,” Mr Seremwe said.

However, in past interviews, Zimbabwean fishermen have blamed their Zambian counterparts for the declining stocks.

The Zambians are allegedly using the banned four-milimetre fishing nets which can catch the smallest of fish and after exhausting their stocks.

It is said they then resort to poaching fish on the Zimbabwean side of the lake.

According to the maritime laws agreed by Zimbabwe and Zambia in 1999, Zimbabwean fishermen are supposed to have 55 percent of the fishing boats on the lake while Zambia is supposed to have 45 percent.

However, when The Sunday Mail Society recently visited Kariba, a brief survey concluded that Zambian boats far outnumber Zimbabwean boats, with estimates putting the number to be more than triple the recommended number on the lake.

The introduction of the predatory crayfish into the lake has also contributed to the depletion of stocks.

Crayfish, which were introduced to the lake from Australia, devour both the kapenta eggs and the hatchlings.

But depleting fish stocks are not only confined to Lake Kariba.

Two years ago, the London Zoological Society reported that globally species have halved in 40 years, adding that populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by an average 52 percent.

Populations of freshwater species have suffered a fall of 76 percent.

According to internet sources, much of the overfishing has occurred in Indonesia and China, up by 4,7 million to 3 million tonnes respectively in the 60 years to 2010.

Fish accounts for 16 percent of the world’s animal protein intake and the intake increases to 20 percent in low-income food-deficit nations, most of which are in the tropics.

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