Fisheries Department bringing sanity to fishing through boat registration and markings

The stakeholders meeting in Nkhata Bay

* The exercise will include painting the boats with colour to represent the districts where they come from

* Another line of colour will be painted below the boats to indicate the Traditional Authority where the boat is based

*  Fishing communities along the lakeshore districts to fully participate in the exercise for the success of the initiative

By Chisomo Kambandanga, MANA

The Department of Fisheries is bringing sanity to fishing through boat registration and markings by embarking on a boat registration and marking exercise in partnership with PACT Malawi — through USAID funded Restoring Fisheries for Sustainable Livelihoods (REFRESH) project.

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At a consultative meeting with traditional leaders drawn from lakeshore areas in Nkhata Bay, district fisheries officer, Trasicio Ngulube said the exercise is a step taken in addressing some of the challenges being encountered in fish restoration and conservation on Lake Malawi.

“The exercise, among other things, will include painting the boats with colour to represent the districts where they come from,” he said. “Traditional leaders in Nkhata Bay have chosen green colour for the district.

“Another line of colour will be painted below the boats to indicate the Traditional Authority where the boat is based,” Ngulube said, while urging the fishing communities along the lake shore districts to fully participate in the exercise for the success of the initiative.

REFRESH project’s deputy chief of party, Amakhosi Jere said once boats are marked, it will be easy to identify them in times of accidents.

“Theft and other criminal acts will be limited and compliance of fishing regulations by fishermen will easily be monitored and enforced,” he said.

Senior assistant surveyor of vessels from Marine Department, Chikosa Mkandawire said the exercise is a requirement by law under Section 9 of Inland Waters Act, which stipulates that each boat shall be marked so that it is known by name and port of registry.

“Nkhata Bay District Council will find it easy to collect revenue from the fisheries sector if all the 2,000 boats that operate in Nkhata Bay are registered,” he said.

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In his remarks, Senior Chief Mkumbira commended the Fisheries Department for the exercise, saying it will go a long way in facilitating identification of perpetrators of illegal fishing practices.

“It will also simplify search and rescue exercises in case of accidents,” he said.

On its Facebook profile, the Department of Fisheries said this follows a successful implementation of the same exercise as a pilot program in Mangochi.

On registration, each boat will  be given a number representing the ministry, district and the year the boat was made.

The Department emphasises that exercise is of paramount as it  will help to increase compliance among fishermen on fishing regulations, easy to identify areas of origin during emergencies and easy to enforce regulations or by-laws using set of standards among others.

According to department of marine, the boat registration fees is K3,000 which is once off.

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The REFRESH project is being implemented in the lakeshore districts of Karonga, Rumphi, Likoma, Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Salima, Dedza and Mangochi.

PACT Malawi was awarded a grant of $12 million by USAID in 2019 to implement the REFRESH project to be implemented from 2019 to 2024 and Chief of Party for PACT Malawi, Alan Brooks said then that the purpose of the project is to conserve the freshwater biodiversity of Lake Malawi.

He had said the project aims to achieve its goals by restoring the natural fisheries productivity in the lakeshore districts of Karonga, Rumphi, Likoma, Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Salima, Dedza and Mangochi — to ensure that Lake Malawi’s aquatic habitats are healthy and well-managed.

“We want to ensure that the endemic fish populations of targeted parts of Lake Malawi are healthy and self-sustaining; and fisheries in the targeted parts of Lake Malawi are managed sustainably by 2024,” he had told MANA then.

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“We will build the capacity of fishermen so that they manage their demarcated area of water, through technical expertise, closed seasons and other control measures,” Brooks said.

He said through the project, they would like to make lasting change for the next generation, through equipping communities with skills, resources and opportunities they need to responsibly benefit from the natural resources around them.

USAID’s environmental team leader, Keith Mertzner said the startup workshop was aimed at brainstorming new approaches to successfully overcome the threats to freshwater biodiversity and ecosystems in the lake Malawi.

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He said the approaches will take into consideration the challenges that the Department of Fisheries has identified such as overfishing; illegal and unregulated fishing and habitat destruction.

“We are going to learn more about the refresh activity’s focused approach to reducing key threats to Malawi’s fisheries biodiversity, we are also going to discuss how REFRESH activity will collaborate with other USAID supported activities to reverse proximate drivers to habitat destruction,” he had told MANA.

USAID hopes to see the project collaborating closely with its local government accountability and performance (LGAP) project and District Councils to realize durable and effective decentralized fisheries management systems over the course of time.

The REFRESH project is a follow up of the Fisheries Integration of Society and Habitats (FISH) project, which was also being implemented by USAID and PACT Malawi.

It was aimed at increasing social, ecological, and economic resilience to climate change and improving biodiversity conservation through sustainable fisheries co-management.—Additional reporting by Maravi Express

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