Yearly fish ban: Is it beneficial?
Published On January 28, 2014 » 9317 Views» By Administrator Times » Business, Columns
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policy analysis 3 (1)EVERY year, all fishery areas in Zambia are closed to fishing from about December 1, to the beginning of March the following year, except for Lake Kariba and Lake Tanganyika.

The two are not affected by the annual fishing ban because they are shared water bodies and, therefore, have different management protocols and are mainly the sources of small fish called Kapenta, which is highly migratory.

According to the Fisheries Act of the Laws of Zambia, it is an offence to carry out fishing activities or to be in possession of fish during the fishing ban period

My findings show that the affected areas are Kafue River and flood plain fishery, Super Upper Kafue Fishery, Upper Zambezi, Lower Zambezi from the dam wall to the Zambezi-Luangwa confluence

Others are Lukanga Swaps, Bangweulu Fishery and the swamps, Mweru-wa-ntipa, Mweru-Luapula, Lusuwashi and Chambeshi Fishery.

The Government effects the ban which is aimed at avoiding fishing during the breeding season to ensure the replenishing of the fast depleting natural resources.

Fishermen practise indiscriminate fishing and sometimes use illegal means like domestic explosives, mosquitoe nets and traditional fish poison

The use of such methods have led to the depletion of fish stocks, hence the ban on all small scale and commercial fisheries give fish a chance to breed.
Some people, however, question whether the ban is for the best and its contribution towards the actual replenishing of the fish to the water bodies and its implication on the country and the consumers in
the country.

Vice-President Guy Scott once raised one of these points in Parliament while as an opposition Parliamentarian.

Dr Scott said that when he was Agriculture minister, he had asked scientists at the Fisheries Department in Chilanga to quantify the benefits of the fishing ban

According to him the result was that they were unable to say, with any certainty, that there was any gain at all.
Dr Scott was a minister more than 20 years ago

Zambia shares some water bodies with Botswana, Namibia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but the fishing ban is seemingly only effected on the Zambian side, rendering the exercise irrelevant.

Last year, some fish mongers in Mwandi District of Western Province appealed to Government to review the fishing ban in areas where water is shared with neighbouring countries which have no similar bans.

Apart from Zambia, the Zambezi River Basin for instance is shared among seven other countries namely; Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Further, it is reported that most of the fish that is confiscated ends up being sold by the officers who confiscate it.

This is notwithstanding the fact that legally, the disposal of the fish is subject to order from the courts.
The confiscated fish may be donated to some hospitals, prisons, schools as well as other community-based entities.

Sadly, even some people in possession of dry fish, which could have been caught way before the ban was effected, may lose their fish

The officers do not seem to have any means to determine whether the fish was caught before or after the fishing ban came into effect.

Fishing is the main source of livelihood and protein, particularly for people near the water bodies in the country.

Some observers, therefore, say other methods of preserving the fish stocks should be considered, especially bearing in mind that, for centuries, our ancestors managed to maintain the fish stocks

As a result of fishing ban, fishermen who depend on fishing, sneak in the night to do their fishing and sell their catch in the early hours of the day to avoid being arrested

At the peak of the ban in 2012, Luapula Province Minister Benson Kapaya found several fishermen fishing while others were found selling their catches

The Government has realised the need to help the fishermen to diversify into other sources of livelihood.

It has been distributing farming inputs to fishermen in Luapula and other provinces to encourage them to take up farming as a substitute during the fish ban which coincide with maize farming period.

The Government encourages other diversification activities for fishermen.

In 2009 the Government through the Department of Fisheries launched 24 marine boats in 24 different community zones.

The 24 marine boats were meant for the supervision and monitoring of fishing during the fishing ban season.

Luapula Province kicked-off the launch of the 24 banana boats to ensure the approaching fish ban was effective

Next week will look at some of the positive and negative impacts of the ban on the economy, other sectors and on established fisheries

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