By Martin Chiwanda, MANA
Department of Fisheries in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has expressed concern over the decline of Chambo in the country’s main water body, Lake Malawi.
Deputy Director of Fisheries responsible for Planning and Development, Morris Makhuwira was speaking on Wednesday in Nsanje after making a presentation on the Fisheries Project that intends to save the endangered fish species.
Makhuwira said Chambo fish stocks have declined from 15,000 metric tons in the 1980s to less than 4,000 metric tons for the past decade.
He added that there is a decline in fish per capita and fish consumption from 14 Kg in the 1980s to less than 9kg since 2010.
Makhuwira said the US$14.57 million (over MK10.6 billion) Sustainable Fisheries, Aquaculture Development and Watershed Management Project will target 20,000 farmers in the country’s 16 districts to address challenges in the Fisheries Sector, apart from addressing unemployment.
“While fish stock assessment studies reveal a potential for further 40,000 metric tons of fish to be caught annually from Lake Malawi, there has been localised over-fishing near the shores as artisanal fishers lack the resources to expand their activities further inside the lake,” Makhuwira said.
He, however, noted that sustainable management of fish resources needs to be backed up with sound polices to narrow gaps of demand and supply.
“There is need to sustainably manage fisheries resources and develop aquaculture within the changing environment as has been emphasised in various policy documents and need to narrow the gap between demand and supply plus identifying export potential within the medium to long terms,” he said.
He added that fishing communities need to be empowered to address shortfalls of basic infrastructure and social services which negatively affect fishing activities.
According to Makhuwira, issues of marketing and distribution of fish also need to be resolved.
“The project will also contribute towards poverty reduction through improved fish value addition and provision of processing infrastructure for increased yield, strengthened nutritional security, building community resilience, and strengthened climate adaptation best practices,” he said.
Nsanje District Director of Planning and Development, Smith Mnenula said he was impressed with the newly-introduced project and expressed hope it would transform people’s lives in the district.
Mnenula also noted that the fish industry was declining in the district and that such initiatives would revamp the industry.