Launching the by-laws on Tuesday, Chief Fisheries Officer in the Department of Fisheries in the Ministry of Agriculture, Albar Pulaizi, said the Ministry is geared to preserve endangered fish species from extinction in the country.
Pulaizi said among other things, the department is working with communities to observe good fishing practices.
“We are aware that some fish species are dwindling, some practices are not conducive for fish growth hence we are enforcing our laws to deal with overfishing and illegal fishing among others. We are also employing the participatory fisheries management, an approach that promotes an all-round conservation tactics,” said Pulaizi he said.
He said through the approach, they work together with district councils and other stakeholders to preserve the fish.
“We want the fishermen to take a leading role in preserving their crucial resource from extinction hence the need to formulate by-laws on fisheries,” he said.
The by-laws in Nkhotakota follow the dwindling of fish species in the shores of Lake Malawi which lies in over 250 km shoreline distance of the lake.
According to the Country Director for Ripple Africa, Force Ngwira, this status has hit hard on the economy of people in the district who mostly rely on the fishing sector.
“These by-laws will ensure responsible fishing by among others restricting the use of mosquito nets for fishing, catching young fish and formulating fish conservation committee all aimed at preventing people from catching young fish,” said Ngwira.
Currently Nkhotakota contributes about 33 percent of the total fish catch of Lake Malawi in the country; a figure much higher than other districts.
The fishing sector is the main source of employment in the district directly employing about 60 thousand fishermen and over 500 thousand indirectly involved in the fish processing industry.
According to fisheries officials, the total annual landings of fish species have been increased from 1381 metric tonnes in 1976 to over 26683 metric tonnes in 2018; threatening sustainability of the fish resource.
While studies are yet to establish the cause for such a great change but population, over dependence on fishing and illegal fishing practices are perceived major predators.
In his remarks Founder for Ripple Africa, Geoffrey Furber revealed intentions to initiate similar project in all the districts near the lakeshores of the country, in Tanzania and in Mozambique among other African countries.
“The whole project started when I saw two young children fishing on a beach and at first I didn’t take it as a problem till I noticed it was a habit for people in the lakeshore so I interacted with them and enlightened them on the importance of preserving fish hence the project, and I am happy to see it bearing fruit,” said Furber.
Ripple Africa is a UK –Malawi registered Non-Governmental Organization established and introduced in Malawi in 2003, the institution works in the areas of education, health and environment.
The by-laws fall under its Fish conservation project which aims at sustainable management of the fisheries resources for the benefit of the generation to come.
Through the project, Ripple Africa has empowered communities in fish resource management, confiscated 75 big mosquito nets fishing gears which are ready for disposal, formulated 60 fishing conservation committees and identifies and protects 12 Chambo Fish breeding areas in Nkhotakota. Similar works are in place in Nkhata Bay district, in Northern Malawi. At high risk of extinction is Chambo and Mpasa fish among others.