The following brief summary is based on the review papers of D.S.C. Lewis (1990) and D. Tweddle (1991).
Scientific interest in the chambo species of Lake Malawi started in the 1860s with the first taxonomic work on specimens collected by early European travellers. The taxonomic definitions were refined by a number of workers particularly Trewavas after her visit in 1939 and Lowe (Lowe-McConnell) until the 1980s. Starting in 1987 an ODA (UK) funded project considered Oreochromis lidole as a possible fish for culturing in impoundments. Their results of morphometric and biochemical taxonomic investigations were published in 1989 and later.
Questions of the taxonomy of this complex group are still being resolved by the chambo Research Project team.
Bertram, Borley and Trewavas, in 1939, initiated the studies of the biology and the basic ecology of the chambo species. This work was continued in greater detail by Lowe and published by her in 1952 and 1953. In particular this latter work established the basic facts about breeding and growth and the migration habits of the members of the chambo group, thus providing an important point of reference for the present work on the biology of the resource and its potential for exploitation.
From 1987 to 1990 the ODA (UK) funded project investigated many aspects of the biology of O. lidole, including growth rates, breeding habits, diet, and shoaling behaviour.
Observations and investigations of the fishery and the potential fish resources began with the visit of Bertram, Borley and Trewavas, but these investigations were cut short at the start of the second world war. This work was continued with the visit of Lowe from 1945 to 1947. Her investigations were able to consider the data from the intervening war years. In 1966 Williamson (then CFO) produced a report on the fisheries which assessed the data of the previous 20 years. The next assessment was made by Tarbit (Fisheries Research Unit) in 1973 which covered the period since 1969.
From 1972 to 1976 a UNDP/FAO Project for the promotion of integrated fishery development undertook a stock assessment programme. This work provided the basis for the current data collection programmes and provided information on the stocks of fish and their exploitation. Studies on the commercial fisheries which were started in this project are still continuing as part of the work of the Fisheries Research Unit with Alimoso, Magasa and Tweddle publishing contributions relating to the fish stocks and the fisheries. In 1980 Chaika reported on the problem of management of the artisanal chambo fisheries of the south-east arm of Lake Malawi. Mkoko in 1981 reported on the status of the chambo fishery in the south-east arm and summarised past work on the chambo stocks. In 1985 Lewis (Fisheries Research Unit) analysed catch-effort data from the commercial fisheries.
Starting in 1986, a joint project of the GOM and the ODA (UK) has been undertaking an assessment of the artisanal fisheries on Lakes Malawi, Malombe and the Upper Shire River.