Finding sustainable ways to address declining fish stocks on Lake Malawi
Growth in fisheries and aquaculture in Lake Malawi needs to have a management plan that takes into consideration the environmental, social economic and governance objectives to ensure sustainable provision of fish for food and development, Assistant FAO Representative Dr Samuel Chingondole told delegates to the first-ever workshop on Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries and Aquaculture (EAFA) in Lake Malawi.
The three-day workshop convened from 15 to 17 July was supported by FAO in close collaboration with Bunda College of Agriculture and the Government of Malawi through its Department of Fisheries.
“The implementation of the ecosystem approach to fisheries and aquaculture will also facilitate the integration with other sectors using water and coastal ecosystems,” said Chingondole.
The aim of the workshop was to review information and reach a consensus on the current fisheries and aquaculture and other issues external to the sector with all relevant stakeholders.
Further, it aimed at prioritizing issues in order to develop a management plan that improves the contribution of fisheries and aquaculture to food security and poverty alleviation while preserving environmental services and biodiversity.
“The EAFA is considered an excellent strategy to enhance adoption and implementation of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible fisheries (CCRF) at local level,” Chingondole said.
“This approach is also in line with the international guidelines FAO and Members are creating on small scale fisheries, especially in regards to addressing fisheries management aspects, equity issues and the interactions with other sectors including aquaculture.”
With grim reports of dwindling fish stocks in Lake Malawi accounting to 93% as of 1990 to 2010, the EAFA workshop presented an opportune time for experts to deliberate on how to preserve the fisheries and fish farming around the lake.
Fisheries contribution to the economy
In Malawi, the fisheries sector contributes approximately 4% to national GDP and is a significant source of jobs, directly employing about 60, 000 fishermen and indirectly about 350, 000 people who are involved in fish processing, fish marketing, net making, boat building and engine repair.
The lake is also source of 60% of the total animal protein supply in the country with over 70% of Malawi’s population depending on Lake Malawi and its catchment for their daily survival needs and livelihoods.
Decreasing fish production on Lake Malawi, thus, presents a major threat to women too such as Winape Mponda, 34, a fish trader from Kela Village in Traditional Authority Mponda in the lakeshore district of Mangochi, who solely depend on fish for their livelihoods.
“I am concerned at the decreasing levels of fish in the lake because as a fish trader I rely on the fish business to feed my children,” said Mponda, who has five children.
“Our children eat because of my fish business and if this [decreasing fish stocks] continues, it can bring a lot of misery and poverty in our family,” she said, on the sidelines of the workshop.
According to a June 2013 Baseline Report on Lake Malawi produced by the Department of Fisheries, the estimated annual fish production from both small- and large-scale operators from Lake Malawi had 109,136 tones in 2012.