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Part I Overview and main indicators

  1. Country brief
  2. General geographic and economic indicators
  3. FAO Fisheries statistics

Part II Narrative (2016)

  1. Production sector
    • Marine sub-sector
    • Inland sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
    • Aquaculture sub-sector
    • Recreational sub-sector
  2. Post-harvest sector
    • Fish utilization
    • Fish markets
  3. Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector
    • Role of fisheries in the national economy
    • Trade
    • Food security
    • Employment
    • Rural development
  4. Trends, issues and development
    • Constraints and opportunities
    • Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies
    • Research, education and training
      • Research
      • Education and training
  5. Institutional framework
  6. Legal framework
    • Regional and international legal framework
  7. Annexes
  8. References

Additional information

  1. FAO Thematic data bases
  2. Publications
  3. Meetings & News archive

Part I Overview and main indicators

Part I of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile is compiled using the most up-to-date information available from the FAO Country briefs and Statistics programmes at the time of publication. The Country Brief and the FAO Fisheries Statistics provided in Part I may, however, have been prepared at different times, which would explain any inconsistencies.

Country briefLivestock and fisheries make an underestimated contribution to national agricultural sector performance compared to the crop sector. The fishery subsector comprises capture fishery, aquaculture and recreational fishery components. The largest fishery is on Lake Kariba and contributes almost 90 per cent of the country’s fish production. Lake Kariba supports an open-water semi-industrial night fishery for the Kapenta small pelagics and an artisanal inshore by village communities around the lakeshore largely using gillnets.

Statistics have generally been poor since 2000. Capture fisheries production is estimated to be about 10 500 tonnes per year. Two species contribute over 84 percent of the fish production (Kapenta, two freshwater sardines introduced from Lake Tanganyika, and the Nile tilapia, also an introduction).

Zimbabwe has relatively developed aquaculture and is retained to be one of the top-ten fish farming countries in Sub-Saharan Africa for a decade. In 2014, the total production was estimated at 10 600 tonnes and much of the production were Nile tilapia raised in floating cages in Lake Kariba operated by the Lake Harvest company, one of the leading private aquaculture firms in Africa, which also operates in Uganda and Zambia. The Lake Harvest is vertically integrating farming, processing, marketing and export. Trout is also produced in the Eastern Highlands for the urban markets and for recreational fishing. There is the need to further explore the potential in aquaculture, especially small-scale pond fish farming of tilapias and African catfish, by improving fingerling and feed production and supply, as well extension services. Development in aquaculture could help to improve the national food and nutrition security and lift the still low per caput fish consumption.

Per capita fish consumption is very low, amounting to about 2.2 kg in 2010. In 2014, imports of fish and fishery products were valued at USD 27.9 million and exports USD 15.3 million.

Unfortunately, lack of current reliable data precludes from estimating the number and characteristics of the fishing vessels. It is reported that 4 000 people are employed in aquaculture with nearly 44 000 employed in inland fisheries.

The current issues include:
  • The responsibility for the conservation and management of water bodies includes capture and recreational fisheries and lies with the National Parks and Wildlife Authority of the Ministry of Environment, while the responsibility for aquaculture rests with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Mechanization. This creates problems, especially for aquaculture development.
  • Zimbabwe needs to have an integrated policy to develop and manage its fisheries and aquaculture sectors. Such a policy would assist in the development and management of aquatic resources addressing also overcapacity, impact of destructive land use practices, pollution and water weeds.
  • Because of a lack of statistics, difficulties in management, and unreported transfers of catch (blackfish) in the Kapenta fishery, the actual production of this fishery and its contribution to the economy is underestimated. Kapenta was an important, affordable and accessible source of fish protein and nutrition in a difficult 2007-2008 period when the macro-economic climate was harsh.
  • Zimbabwe has a considerable potential for aquaculture. It has an estimated 10,700 large-medium sized dams covering 3 910 km2, possibilities of small-scale pond fish farming of tilapias and African catfish, by improving fingerling and feed supply, as well as extension services and market access, through joint efforts of public and private sectors, but most of this potential remains unrealized.
Zimbabwe’s bilateral/international obligations include the Protocol on Economic and Technical Cooperation concerning the Management and Development of Fisheries on Lake Kariba and the Transboundary Waters of the Zambezi River, the SADC Protocol on Fisheries, the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES and the Ramsar ConventionSince December 1982 Zimbabwe is Party to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Zimbabwe is Member of the Aquaculture Network of Africa (ANAF).
General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 - Zimbabwe -General Geographic and Economic Data

Marine water area (including the EEZ) Not applicable
Shelf area Not applicable
Length of continental coastline Not applicable
Fisheries GDP Not available

Key statistics

Country area390 760km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Land area386 850km2FAOSTAT. Expert sources from FAO (including other divisions), 2013
Inland water area3 910km2Computed. Calculated, 2013
Population - Est. & Proj.14.965millionsFAOSTAT. Official data, 2018

Source: FAO Country Profile

FAO Fisheries statisticsThe tables and graphs in this section are based on statistics prepared by the FAO Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit and disseminated in 2016.

1980 1990 2000 2010 2012 2013 2014
PRODUCTION (thousand tonnes) 13.3 25.8 15.3 13.3 18.6 20.6 21.1
Inland 13.3 25.8 15.3 13.3 18.6 20.6 21.1
Marine 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Aquaculture 0.1 0.2 2.2 2.8 8.1 10.1 10.6
Inland 0.1 0.2 2.2 2.8 8.1 10.1 10.6
Marine 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Capture 13.2 25.6 13.1 10.5 10.5 10.5 10.5
Inland 13.2 25.6 13.1 10.5 10.5 10.5 10.5
Marine 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
TRADE (USD million)
Import 4.0 0.8 8.6 21.3 27.4 30.7 27.9
Export 0.1 0.1 4.3 3.2 6.6 8.8 15.3
EMPLOYMENT (thousands) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 47.7
Aquaculture 0.0 4.0
Capture 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 43.7
Inland 43.7
FLEET(thousands boats) ... ...
Fish food supply (thousand tonnes in live weight equivalent) 19.6 26.0 25.6 29.1
Per Capita Supply (kilograms) 2.7 2.5 2.0 2.2
Fish Proteins (grams per capita per day) 0.8 0.7 0.6 0.7
Fish/Animal Proteins (%) 7.0 7.6 6.4 5.3
Fish/Total Proteins (%) 1.4 1.5 1.3 1.2
Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics
1) Excluding aquatic plants
2) Due to roundings total may not sum up

Figure 1 — Zimbabwe— Total fishery production
Figure 1 — Zimbabwe— Total fishery production

Figure 2 — Zimbabwe — Production of aquatic plants
Figure 2 — Zimbabwe — Production of aquatic plants

Figure 3 — Zimbabwe — Capture production
Figure 3 — Zimbabwe — Capture production

Figure 4 — Zimbabwe — Major species groups in capture production
Figure 4 — Zimbabwe — Major species groups in capture production

Figure 5 — Zimbabwe — Composition of capture production – 2013
Figure 5 — Zimbabwe — Composition of capture production – 2013
Figure 6 — Zimbabwe — Aquaculture production
Figure 6 — Zimbabwe — Aquaculture production

Figure 7 — Zimbabwe —Major species groups in aquaculture production
Figure 7 — Zimbabwe —Major species groups in aquaculture production

Figure 8 — Zimbabwe — Import and export value of fish and fishery products
Figure 8 — Zimbabwe — Import and export value of fish and fishery products

Figure 9 — Zimbabwe – Major species groups in import
Figure 9 — Zimbabwe – Major species groups in import

Figure 10 — Zimbabwe – Major species groups in export
Figure 10 — Zimbabwe – Major species groups in export

Figure 11 — Zimbabwe — Per capita supply of fish and fishery products
Figure 11 — Zimbabwe — Per capita supply of fish and fishery products

Figure 12 — Zimbabwe — Composition of total fish food supply - 2011
Figure 12 — Zimbabwe — Composition of total fish food supply - 2011

Updated 2016Part II Narrative

Part II of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile provides supplementary information that is based on national and other sources and that is valid at the time of compilation (see update year above). References to these sources are provided as far as possible.

Production sectorThe Republic of Zimbabwe is a landlocked country with a few perennial rivers. Over the years a large number of dams numbering more than 12 000 have been built across the country to harness water for electricity generation, domestic use, livestock watering and irrigation. Most of these dams and other water bodies, all occupying a surface area of over 3 910 km2, have for years been exploited for fisheries, with capture fishery and or fish farming being carried out in them. They have positively influenced national fish production and play a significant role in food security for rural communities and in income and employment generation.

Lake Kariba, located in the Zambezi Valley to the north and covering some 5 364 km2of water, is the center point of Zimbabwe’s fisheries, and the sardine Limnothrissa miodon (‘kapenta’) its own centerpiece. This species has developed significantly since its introduction on the lake in the late 1960s. Lake Kariba is oligotrophic and supports the pelagic, semi-industrial (offshore) and artisanal (inshore) fisheries. The major fishery on the lake is the kapenta fishery which accounts for over 90 percent of the lake’s total fish production. The basic determinants of the lake’s kapenta production are nutrients and climate (particularly maximum water temperature) both of which are influenced by water levels.

Other important water bodies supporting significant commercial fisheries include Lake Chivero, Lake Mutirikwi, Lake Manyame and Mazvikadei Dam.

The ‘kapenta’ resource is highly resilient and makes a significant contribution to the economy and livelihoods of fishing communities on the shores of Lake Kariba and of fish traders in most rural and urban parts of the country. The bio-ecological characteristics of this species include high fecundity, short lifespan, rapid growth and fast colonization of the habitat. The species is mainly nocturnal, feeds largely on plankton, and breeds close to shore all through the rainy season. The fishery is largely harvested with rigs and dip nets while lighting systems are used both above and under the water surface for fish attraction. Fish finders are also often used as an aid for locating kapenta shoals.

Tilapia is a very popular and well-favoured species in Zimbabwe. Comparatively, there is a strong preference for farmed tilapia over the wild-caught, as the latter are perceived to have quality problems of off-flavours, spoilage, presentation and traceability.

Fish production levels have been on the decline since the early 1990s for a myriad of factors, thereby causing a huge dissipation of its earning potential and thus placing the entire Zimbabwe fisheries at a risky position.

Fish farming in Zimbabwe is a small industry with only a few commercial farms in existence. Commercial aquaculture in the country mainly has to do with two species: Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and rainbow trout (Onchorynchus mykiss). While the warm water temperatures (above 24oC) of northern Zimbabwe are conducive for tilapia cultivation, the cooler temperatures in the eastern highlands are suitable for trout production. Both species are farmed on a commercial scale. African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) and Indian carps are also reared, though to a lesser extent. Most fish farms in the country are relatively small in size. A successful private aquaculture company in the country, which is considered to be a model for sustainable fish farming in Africa was established in 1997, has demonstrated that a commercial industrial-scale aquaculture is viable, even under extremely difficult economic conditions.Zimbabwe has an active recreational fishery, with many of the numerous dams having been converted to angling waters.

Marine sub-sector

Inland sub-sector

Zimbabwe being a landlocked country, its fisheries emanate entirely from it’s over 3 910 km2 of inland waters, of which Lake Kariba is the predominant body. These fisheries, being themselves of appreciable magnitude and scope, play a significant role in the socioeconomic development of Zimbabwe.

Catch profile

The kapenta (Limnothrissa miodon) fishery is the major fishery on Lake Kariba, accounting for about 90% of the lake’s total fish landings. Being a mono-species fishery, there are limited interactions with the largely inshore artisanal gill-net fisheries.

apenta catches are seasonal, being lowest between the months of September and March when the kapenta move inshore to spawn in protected waters, thus leaving the open waters depleted of stock. Conversely, commercial catches become high after March when the adult kapenta return to the open waters.

While targeting kapenta, however, the following species are often caught as by-catch: Tiger fish (Hydrocynus vittatus), Squeaker (Synodontis zambenzensis), Barbus marequensis, Bottle fish, Cornish fish, Mudsuckers, and Burble fish. Such by-catches are of very low quantities (about 1-2 kg per rig per fished night), are of little or no economic importance to the fishing companies and are therefore withheld and consumed by the fishing crew. Tigerfish makes up the bulk of the by-catch.

A new candidate species, Red-claw crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus) is being trap-harvested and marketed locally by some fishermen. This crustacean was introduced and has proliferated in Lake Kariba in recent years. It is native to Australia, but was translocated to many parts of the world including to Zambia in the last two decades.

Catch compositions in the fisheries of other lakes, rivers and dams also include cichlids (Oreochromis mortimeri, Oreochromis niloticus, O. macroghir, Sargochromis codringtonii, Tilapia rendalli), cyprinids (Labeo altivelis, L.congoro), mormyrids (Mormyrus longirostris, Mormyrops anguilloides) and a Clariid (Clarias gariepinus) as well as some of those species usually taken as by-catch on the larger Lake Kariba.

Landing sites

Catches are landed on the banks of major rivers and dams, such as Lake Kariba, Lake Chivero, Lake Mutirikwi, Lake Manyame, Mazvikadei Dam, and along River Zambezi and its tributaries. Other landing sites are along the smaller reservoirs of Muzhwi, Zhowe, Osborne, Manjirenji and Manyuchi.

Fishing practices/systems

The Zimbabwean kapenta fishery started in 1973 with the issuance of the first purse seine licence. Soon after 1976, dip-net fishery, employing night lights from pontoons (rigs), commenced.

In recent times, rigs constitute about 97% of the boats used in the Zimbabwe fishing industry. They generally measure about 8 –12 meters in length and 7 meters wide. According to the Frame Survey carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in 2011, there were 281 functional rigs in Zimbabwe that year. Of this number, 249 were operated by the owners while the remaining 32 were leased. Also, 246 representing 92% of the fishing vessels are motorized while the remaining small proportion is not mobile and must be towed to the fishing area. And of the entire motorized majority, 243 boats or about 67 percent are fitted with inboard engines.

On Lake Kariba the prevalent fishing gear is the large circular dip net with light devices to attract the fish. Over 90 percent of fishing vessels (about 226) are fitted with such nets, the most common of whose diameters are between 6 meters and 8 meters. A winch is installed in the rig for raising and lowering the dip net along a boom. The winch may be manual, mechanical or hydraulic. Fishing is seasonal and is conducted with light to attract the fish. Kapenta stocks are at their lowest between September and March when the fish migrate inshore to protected waters to spawn, thereby leaving the open-water stock depleted. Commercial catches become high again after March as the adults move back to the open waters. Over 240 pontoons or roughly 57 percent are fitted with hydraulic winches.

The mesh size of the dip nets in use vary from 4mm to 12mm.Over 83 percent of the fishing pontoons are fitted with dip-nets of 8 millimeters, which conform to the authorized mesh size. Onboard generators are used to power mercury light bulbs placed over and beneath the water surface. While some rigs mount as many as 8 surface lights and 3 underwater lights, the mean number of surface lights is 3 and underwater lights one.

Other fishing equipment employed, particularly in the Lake Kariba fishery, include ‘fish finder’ devices, which are used to locate schools of kapenta, to define the lake bottom profile and to select fishing areas. A total of 244 rigs representing over 52 percent of the identified fishing vessels are fitted with such devices.

Fishing operations generally commence at sunset and last through the night. The dip-net is lowered to a water-depth of about 25-30 meters, followed by the lights which are lowered to a depth of 10 – 15 meters (along the dip-net wire) to attract the kapenta shoals. The duration of fish attraction to light is usually about one hour, while a total of 6 – 12 fishing hauls can be achieved per night.

In the artisanal inshore fishery of Lake Kariba, the gill-net (of approved mesh size) is largely used. For crayfish, approved purpose-built trapping cages are used. And in other small-scale fisheries, the gill-net, seine nets and long-lines are handy in exploiting the resource. Most subsistence fishers use hook and line (subsistence angling) alongside dam shores.

Main resources

The large, man-made Lake Kariba, located on the Zambezi River and covering a total area of 5 364 square kilometres, is the powerhouse of Zimbabwe’s fisheries, and Limnothrissa miodon (‘kapenta’) its own fulcrum. It is a shared lake between Zimbabwe (owning 2 952 km2 or 55 percent) and Zambia (2 412 km2 or 45 percent), and was completed in the early 1960s for the main purpose of hydroelectricity generation for the two riparian States. With a mean depth of 19.4 km, the lake is oligotrophic and has low productivity.

Some 144 fish species, comprising 114 endemic and 30 exotic, are hosted in Zimbabwean waters. Of these, the clupeid ‘kapenta’ (also known as ‘Lake Tanganyika sardine’) and the Nile tilapia (locally known as ‘bream’) are the two predominant commercial species, with overwhelming contribution to the national fish production.

The basic determinants of Lake Kariba’s kapenta production are nutrients and climate (particularly maximum water temperature) both of which are influenced by water levels.

Kapenta is a short-lived pelagic species with a highly reproductive capability. It was introduced to Kariba from Lake Tanganyika between 1967 and 1968 with the sole purpose of exploiting the pelagic trophic level of the lake. From a very small parental stock, this species rapidly multiplied over a short period of time and has now successfully colonized the entire lake. It is a highly migratory stock, being limited by neither distance nor depth.

The production potential for this resource is remarkably high, enabling the fishery to support high level yields of up to 60 kg per hectare. The species spawns two times per annum in the lake and develops from egg to adult in 5-6 months. This remarkable reproductive characteristic guarantees the stock viability in the lake.

Paradoxically, however, kapenta equally has a high natural mortality rate. The two principal causes of mortality are food constraints and predation. Being a natural occupant of the top trophic niche of the habitat, there is often insufficient food to support its teeming populations. Also, Hydrocynus spp. (Tiger fish) preys voraciously on the species thereby decimating its biomass, even as the occurrence of cannibalism within the kapenta species itself is not uncommon.

Aside Lake Kariba, four important reservoirs where commercial fisheries exist are:

  • Lake Chivero (formerly Lake McIIwaine), a hyper-eutrophic reservoir situated on the Manyame River, 37 km to the southwest of the capital city of Harare. Its surface area is 2 630 hectares and its mean depth 9.4 meters.
  • Lake Manyame (formerly Darwendale Dam), located on the Manyame River, near Norton, with a surface area of 8 100 ha and a maximum depth of 23.6 meters.
  • Lake Mutirikwi (formerly Lake Kyle), near Masvingo, on the Mutirikwi River. It has a maximum depth of 57 m and a surface area of 9 105 ha.
  • Masvikadei Dam, lying on River Mukwadzi, near Banket, with a surface area of 2 300 hectares.

Zhowe, Osborne, Muzhwi, Manyuchi and Manjirenji are other reservoirs supporting fisheries, with gillnet and seine net being the dominant gear in use.

Management applied to main fisheriesManagement measures applied to the Zimbabwean capture fisheries, comprising mainly the kapenta fishery, include:
  • A fishing licensing system to regulate access to the fishery. The number of rigs and fishing permits to be issued each year is recommended by the Lake Kariba Fisheries Research Institute, based on factors including the annual Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), the number of applicant fishing companies, size of their fishing fleet and their maximum allowable catch, etc.A licence can only be used in a designated basin. Fishing licences are renewable every year for USD 1 500 per rig, and this amount goes into offsetting a proportion of the Institute’s budget.
  • Technical conservation measures banning fishing in certain areas, such as shallow waters to protect breeding or in the proximity of holiday resorts, etc. Notably, kapenta fishing is prohibited in areas less than 20 metres deep.
  • Minimum mesh size of fishing nets: Mesh size should not be less than 8mm when stretched;
  • Monitoring of catch and fishing effort: data collection is achieved in collaboration with the fishing companies which are required to file a monthly catch and effort report to management authorities.
  • In order to protect the kapenta pre-recruits (juveniles), fishing is prohibited in areas less than 20 m deep. Also, to protect spawning species, fishing within 2km radius of all river mouths is illegal.

And applicable to all capture fisheries, fishing efforts and access are monitored through the issuance of licences; fishing is prohibited in closed and restricted areas so as to protect breeding grounds and enhance stock recruitment;output control measures such as catch limits are in place, etc; and use of poisons, explosives, spear guns, jigging, chemicals, intoxicating substances, etc, as fishing tools and methods is also prohibited.And generally, due attention is given to the Precautionary Approach to Capture Fisheries and Species Introductions as outlined in the FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries.

Management objectives

Zimbabwe has progressive fisheries development policies with objectives which include:
  • Knowledge-based management approach
  • Economic growth that is pro-poor
  • Food security
The principal objective of the management of Lake Kariba and other water bodies is the maintenance of optimum sustainable yields of fish populations by promulgating and enforcing conservation principles. The development, control and management of fisheries in Zimbabwe are sufficiently covered by enabling laws.

Fishing communities

The fishing communities of Zimbabwe, domiciled mainly in the fishing villages of Kariba, Chivero, Mutirikwi, Manyame, Mazvikadei, Muzhwi, Zhowe, Osborne, Manjirenji, Manyuchi and along River Zambezi tributaries, are resilient and imbued with sufficient sociocultural organs for peaceful coexistence and development. Fish is the pivot of these communities, with its per capita consumption being higher there than in most other areas of Zimbabwe.

Aquaculture sub-sector

Fish farming is carried out on industrial, commercial and subsistence levels in Zimbabwe, with the largest production emanating from Lake Kariba.

The Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and rainbow trout (Onchorynchus mykiss) are the two main farmed species, with the former being the subsector’s mainstay. Some other cultivated species are the Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus), African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) and the brown trout (Salmo trutta).

The Nile tilapia was introduced to Zimbabwe in the 1970s and 1980s from Kenya, Zambia and Scotland (through the University of Sterling) for fish farming purposes. Trout, on the other hand, was introduced into Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands from Europe in the early 1900s for the purpose of recreational fishing. Both species are cultivated on a commercial scale. Two other farmed species, though to a much lesser degree, are the African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) and the Indian carps. Carp was introduced to Lake Chivero near Harare, with the aim of controlling weed growth. It is not yet commercially farmed. A few players in urban centres are doing ornamental fish culture though in limited volumes.Nile tilapia is present in several Zimbabwean rivers, reservoirs and dams, having been unofficially introduced there over decades, encompassing Lake Kariba in the north. Here, environmental parameters, including ambient temperature (above 24oC) and water quality, are suitable for tilapia culture all the year round.

On the Highveld, south of the Zambezi Valley, the outdoor temperatures being too cold most of the year, are appropriate for growing trout. The government has a trout hatchery in Nyanga in the Eastern Highlands where colder temperatures enable trout production.

Farmed tilapia seed is available from hatcheries operated by the commercial aquaculture companies located in Kariba. Fingerlings are mainly for own on-farm use; they are rarely sold to other farmers for a variety of reasons, including that the species is not permitted to be taken beyond the Zambezi Valley. Hybridization of Oreochromis niloticus with O. mossanbicus and O. mortimeri in the Kariba hatcheries has been successful.

There are about six commercial fish farms with their own hatcheries in Zimbabwe. These are:
  • ‘Lake Harvest Aquaculture (Pvt) Ltd’, Kariba, established in 1997 by the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC), and producing about 3 000 tonnes of whole tilapia and 18 million tilapia fry per year as at 2007. From around 2011, the company was sold on to African Century Group (a UK investiment company) and was further expanded. The African Development Bank Group has invested USD 8 million to finance this project. An additional USD 12 million from a host of other international finance institutions has also been injected into the venture. The farm is fully intergrated with its own feed mill, hatchery, grow-out operations in both land based and lake based cages, EU approved processing plant, refrigerated freight, distribution depots and fish shops. The farm has been reengineered to produce 20 000 tons of fish, out of which the host Zimbabwe absorbs 37 percent, with a further 50 percent going to southern African markets while the remaining 13% is targeted at the European Union. The project, consisting of sections for fish growing, processing and artificial feed production, covers an area of more than 1 000 hectares on Kariba’s east shore, and currently produces some 10 000 tonnes of fish per year, employing over 600 workers on site and its other value chain activities in the country
  • ‘The Bream Farm’, Kariba, established in the early 1980s, and producing about 100 tonnes of tilapia per annum.
  • ‘Mazvikadei Fish Farm’, near Banket, established in the 1970s and producing about 50 tonnes of tilapia per annum.
  • ‘Clairmont Trout Farm’, established in the 1970s and producing about 50 tonnes of trout per annum.
  • ‘The Trout Farm’, established also in the 1970s and producing about 5 tonnes of trout per annum.
  • ‘Inn on Ruparara Trout Farm’, established in the 1990s and producing about 20 tonnes of trout per annum.
There are other fish farms, most of which are relatively small in size developed by individual farmers or with donor support e.g the ongoing World Vision EC Fisheries Project. Nearly 75 percent of fish farms produce their own seed while about 14percent comprising mainly trout farms, depend on the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) for fingerlings. Most of the farms (about 70percent) grow tilapia, especially the Nile tilapia.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Extension Services (AREX) runs an aquaculture extension service whose main role is stock enhancement of small water bodies. This unit has, over the years, recruited seed of cichlid species such as O. mossambicus, O. machrochir, Tilapia rendali and T. sparrmanni and stocked them into dams and reservoirs.

Recreational sub-sector

Sport-fishing takes place in various water bodies, including Lake Kariba, River Zambezi, and several dams and reservoirs. However, Lake Chivero remains the most active water in this wise. Recreational fishing for Large-mouth Bass thrives especially in the dams of Matopos, Ncema, Mayfair, Manjirenji, Mutirikwi and Manyuchi, while that for trout is undertaken in the colder flowing waters of Chimanimani Mountains and Nyanga National Park in the Eastern Highlands.

Commonly taken by anglers using hooks fitted with earthworm or other bait are such species as ‘Chessa’ (Distichodus schenga), ‘nkupe’ (D. mossambicus), ‘cornish jack’ (Mormyrops anguilloides), ‘eastern bottlenose’ (M. longirostris), ‘Hunyani labeo’ also commonly called ‘Pink Lady’ (Labeo altivelis), and various species of bream or ‘kuiper’. Sporting for tigerfish (Hydrocynus vitattus) is also active in the Zambezi River and its tributaries. Rod and line remains the dominant gear used in this fishery.

Two main recreational fishing competitions are held yearly in Zimbabwe: the Annual International Tiger fish Tournament held on Lake Kariba, and the Bass Masters Tournament held on Lake Manyame.

Post-harvest sector

Fish utilization

Fish (both farmed and wild-caught) are mainly sold whole and frozen in Zimbabwe. They are also available in whole, fresh state.

Tilapia is a very popular and well-favoured species in Zimbabwe where it is widely known as ‘bream’. Comparatively, there is a strong preference for farmed tilapia over the wild-caught, as the latter are perceived to have quality problems of off-flavours, spoilage, presentation and traceability

Tilapia, most particularly the farmed, are often processed into frozen fillets and are readily available in butcheries and supermarkets across the country. Fillet processing by-products, such as heads and belly flaps, are easily affordable to low-end consumers.

Trout, on the other hand, being a non-endemic species farmed only in the Eastern Highlands, is both less popular and more expensive than tilapia, and is mainly available in upscale supermarkets and restaurants. The range of trout products includes frozen whole trout, trout fillets, smoked trout and trout pates.

For the highly commercial kapenta fishery of Lake Kariba, preliminary processing starts soon after the catch is hauled onto the rig-deck. The fish are salted dry or brined by immersion in a salt solution for about 10 – 15 minutes aboard the rig. Then at dawn when the vessel gets back to shore, the fish are spread out on drying racks for sun-drying. This process lasts between 1 -3 days depending on fish size and weather conditions (sun intensity and humidity levels). During sun-drying, over 60 percent of the moisture content of the fish is lost, thereby bringing the dried kapenta to about one-third of their original weight.

Sun-dried kapenta is very popular and is particularly favoured for its taste and affordability. It is relished by a wide spectrum of the population and is served in hotels as snacks and starters. Some companies do unsalted fresh kapenta, which is then frozen and sold to urban centres. However, it’s not all kapenta that are utilized for human consumption; some are used as animal feed. Specifically, some crocodile farms feed the reptile with fresh kapenta.

Crayfish from Lake Kariba is either sold live (fresh) or processed into tails for urban markets, with one processor regulary sending small shipments of processed, frozen tails to overseas markets. Also, artisanal fish catches from Kariba and other country dams are mostly sold fresh/frozen, sundried or smoked.

Fish markets

Markets for fish products are countrywide – in a country where generally demand outstrips supply. A majority of the Zimbabwean kapenta is marketed dry. When sufficiently dry, they are packaged in 30 kg jute bags for wholesale, and in retail packs of 50g, 100g, 500g and 1kg. The distribution system is restricted mostly to the domestic market and is highly competitive. Packed kapenta is often seen in many retail outlets around the country.

As with the landings, the kapenta demand and supply are seasonal. Peak sales periods are during the holidays and the month of December when many people return to the rural areas for Christmas. After this high sales period, both demand and supply fall.

Other fish products (including from other dams) especially tilapias are sold at landing sites mainly in fresh whole state. They are also frozen and distributed mostly to large urban centres. Sun-dried/salted products are also sold countrywide in limited volumes.

A common feature is seeing mostly women informal street vendors selling fresh fish (mainly tilapias) and dried kapenta in small unit measurements in urban centres.

Crayfish from Lake Kariba is largely consumed by Chinese immigrant workers (who are doing infrastructural development projects) as well as some niche restaurants affluent urban centres. The catering industry and some large retail chains do stock Nyanga produced trout products. Trout farms have farm gate shops for those wishing to buy their products directly.

Lake Harvest Aquaculture has opened several fish distribution depots and fish shops in major cities for the distribution of its farmed tilapia products.

There is increasing demand for fingerlings, particulary tilapia as interest to develop grow-out farms continue to grow in recent years. Fingerlings production and marketing is increasing becoming a lucrative business for the major commercial aquaculture players.

Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector

Role of fisheries in the national economyThe developmental benefits of fisheries to the Zimbabwean economy include economic growth, job creation, diversification and gender needs. The sector also contributes towards increasing government revenues, foreign exchange generation, regional trade and integration, and enhanced food security.

TradeZimbabwe traditionally imports more fish than it exports, thereby usually incurring trade deficits. Kapenta from the Cahora Bassa in Mozambique is imported to augment Zimbabwe’s local supplies.

The bulk of Zimbabwe’s imported product originates from neighbouring countries like South Africa, Mozam bique and Namibia. South Africa is the main suppliers of especially canned product (pilchards, sardines) that are widespread in the country’s supermarkets. Some of this canned product (tuna) come from as far as Thailand. South Africa also supplies significant volumes of fish meal used for the production of livestock feeds. Other products come from Namibia (horse mackerel, hake etc).

Informal/unregistered dried product come from the region such as Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania. Unlike other countries in the region, there seem to be limited imports of frozen fish products from Asia.

Registered exports of fish products are dominated by fresh, chilled and frozen fish, mainly from the farmed tilapia from Lake Harvest Aquaculture. The bulk of these tilapia products are currently sold to the SADC regional market, with Zambia taking up the largest share. Exports of higher value products such as fresh fillets to EU still happens, but to a lesser extend in recent years.

Food security

The World Food Programme estimates that about 1.5 million Zimbabweans, or about 18 percent of the population, are food-insecure in 2015. Protein and other essential nutrients derivable from fish help to mitigate this trend.

Per capita fish consumption in Zimbabwe is 3kg person, constituting about 2percent of the total protein intake and 7percent of the total animal protein intake. Per capita fish supply is 3kg person which is below the regional, continental and world average. 33percent of Zimbabweans are undernourished, with about 11percent of children under the age of five moderately or severely underweight. Sun-dried kapenta are very popular throughout Zimbabwe but most particularly in the rural areas where the product is most valued for its property of not requiring refrigeration for preservation; it has a long shelf-life under room temperature.

Most fish caught in Zimbabwe’s waters are traded internally, as demand greatly outstrips supply. Subsistence fisheries contribute significantly in augmenting supply and in boosting domestic fish consumption.

National potential demand for fish is estimated at 60,000 Mt per year and with a total production of approximately 20,000 MT, thus there is an estimate deficit of 40,000MT. The deficit would have to be satisfied through imports or increased supply. The estimated annual per capita fish consumption needs to be reviewed.


Capture fishery, both the offshore ‘kapenta’ and the largely gill-net artisanal, generate regular direct employment for the fishers, fishing vessel crew and various strata of fishing company employees. An appreciable workforce is also directly engaged in aquaculture. In addition, many other people are gainfully employed indirectly in the downstream trades of gear and craft marketing and repairs, fish processing and distribution, etc.

Approximately 3,000 people are directly employed in the sector with thousands more employed in spin-off sectors such as trade, marketing, production/processing equipment sales, raw material supplies, boat maintenance/repairs etc.

There are no statistics on the number of artisanal fishers in the whole country except on Lake Kariba where it is estimated that 1154 artisanal fishers reside in 41 fishing villages along the lake (Zimbabwe Lake Kariba Frame Survey Report 2011). The artisanal fishery also generates considerable ancillary employment such as fish traders. Many more people are employed in related fishing activities such as boat building and net making.

On the aquaculture front, Lake Harvest Aquaculture employs about 600 workers in its value chain operations in Zimbabwe. Employment data for other smaller operators is presently unknown.

Rural development

The fisheries sector has the capacity to engender physical and socio-economic development of the mainly rural areas of Zimbabwe where fishing activities are undertaken. The major fish-producing town of Kariba and other such riparian towns and villages have benefitted in this wise, as well as in the stabilization of those communities.

Due to economic challenges facing those mostly in rural areas, fishing in rural dams has become an important alternative livelihood option for many, especially women and youths.

Trends, issues and development

Constraints and opportunities

The Lake Kariba fishery is currently overexploited. This development negatively affects the resource productivity, and by implication that of the entire national fisheries production, thereby leading, in turn, to a negative impact on the food security status of those consumers who strongly depend on kapenta and other fish species for diet. However, with the right conditions obtainable in most parts of the country, aquaculture has the potential to substantially boost national fish production.

Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies

Unlike in other neighboring countries, dedicated, stand-alone fisheries and aquaculture policies and strategic frameworks are yet to be developed.

Pieces of legislation for fisheries are embedded in the Wildlife Act of ZPWMA. There are provisions on aquaculture development and trade of aquatic animals under the livestock development policy of the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development (MAMID).

Research, education and trainingResearch

Major fisheries research is undertaken by the Lake Kariba Fisheries Research Institute (LKFRI), Kariba, whose main objectives are continuous stock assessment and understanding of the environmental factors influencing the biomass and the fish distribution of the lake. Using the extant licencing system, the Institute regulates access to fishery resources, as well as engages in the monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing activities.

The Department of Biological Sciences of the University of Zimbabwe conducts research in various aspects of fisheries and also operates the University Lake Kariba Research Station through which specific fisheries research programmes are handled.

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has research stations scattered in various parts of the country, including the Lake Kariba Fisheries Research Institute, Lake Chivero Fisheries Research Station, Sebakwe Fisheries Research Station, Lake Mutirikwi Fisheries Research Station, Matobo Fisheries Research Station and Nyanga Trout Research Centre. Also the Agricultural Research and Extension Services (AREX) of the Ministry of Agriculture undertakes fisheries management research at Henderson Research Station. It should be noted that research efforts are hampered by lack of funding.

Education and training

Chinhoyi University of Technology, Zimbabwe, offers a Bachelor of Sciene (B.Sc.) degree in Freshwater and Fishery Sciences through its Department of Freshwater and Fishery Sciences, School of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. Also the Department of Livestock, Wildlife and Fisheries of Great Zimbabwe University runs a B.Sc.in Agriculture programme with options in Livestock, Wildlife and Fisheries. Further, the University of Zimbabwe’s B.Sc. (Hons) degree course in Biological Sciences covers aspects of fisheries, and the university also offers a Master of Science in Tropical Hydrobiology and Fisheries degree. Demand driven short training courses on aquaculture are ongoing on regular basis, offered by private players and the University of Zimbabwe, and in some cases are donor funded notably the IOC-SmartFish Programme short training courses on “Aquaculture as a Business” and on “Fish Handling and Quality Control”. The World Vision Zimbabwe and its partners also offer some training courses on aquaculture under its EC Fisheries Project. Agriculture Extension (AREX) officers also offer minimal training and extension services on rural aquaculture development.

Institutional framework

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) in the Ministry of Environment, Water and climate is the regulatory and managerial body on which the management of the entire fisheries and aquatic resources of the country lies. One of the Authority’s mandates is to control and manage access to the Kariba kapenta fishery. It is responsible for issuing fishing licences, control fish movements, and leasing water bodies for aquaculture(in Parks Estates), etc.

The Department of Livestock Production and Development (DLPD) deals with the “animal production” in aquaculture as well as post harvest aspects including quality control and marketing. It is also responsible for issuing export permits for farmed fish products.

And with regard to private sector participation, the two associations which represent kapenta fishery operators in the ZPWMA and other relevant bodies are:
  • The Kapenta Producers Association (KPA),
  • The Indigenous Kapenta Producers Association (IKPA)
  • There are also some fishing community based associations catering for the needs of artisanal fishers e.g. the Gillnet Fishers Association in Lake Kariba.
  • On the aquaculture front, a new association, the Zimbabwe Fish Producers Association (ZFPA) was formed in 2016. The main objectives of the ZFPA are to share technical information, provide synergy in fish farming value chains, protect, promote and further the interests of fish producing businesses in Zimbabwe; and to promote the development of responsible fish farming practices that are environmentally friendly, economically viable while assuring sanitary safety and compliancy to national regulations governing the industry. ZFPA shall be instrumental in working with government and other parties on policy and strategy formulation on fish production.

Legal frameworkRegional and international legal framework

Several projects have been established towards fisheries management activities on Lake Kariba over the years.

There is an ongoing process of joint fisheries management of the Lake Kariba kapenta fishery between the Governments of Zimbabwe and Zambia, supported by the IOC-SmartFish Project under its Fisheries management component (UNFAO). A joint consultation process between the two countries and supported by FAO, under which framework fisheries management issues, with particular regard to the kapenta fishery, is discussed every two years, has been in place since 2000.

Zimbabwe is a member of the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), Southern African Development Community (SADC), and is Party to the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the Abuja Declaration on Responsible Fisheries in Africa, amongst other fisheries-related treaties and conventions.

In addition, The Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) have developed a strategy on fisheries.

Unlike other countries of the region, Zimbabwe is yet to develop a dedicated, stand-alone fisheries and aquaculture policy framework.

Policies governing the development, control and management of fisheries in Zimbabwe are embedded in the Parks and Wildlife Act (Chapter 20: 14 of 1996, as amended). Here and in subsequent Statutory Instruments are set out the legal provisions of the fish licensing system. The Act recognizes that all fisheries resources belong to the public and that the responsibility for their proper management is invested in the State.

The development of fisheries and aquaculture policies in Zimbabwe is a continuous process. Management of Lake Kariba is targeted at maintaining optimum sustainable yields of fish populations by promulgating and enforcing conservation principles.

Legislations and national bylaws specific for Lake Kariba include:
  • Twenty conditions outlining kapenta fishing permits
  • The Inland Water Shipment Act, and
  • The Water Act and the Zambezi River Authority Act.
  • Some provisions on aquaculture development are within the Agricultural policy framework as well as Livestock production policy.

Regional and international legal framework

A Protocol for the economic and technical cooperation1 between the Governments of Zimbabwe and Zambia concerning the management and development of fisheries on Lake Kariba and trans-boundary waters of the Zambezi River was signed in November 1990. Within the framework of the Protocol, a Technical Committee was established to:
  • Manage, conserve and regulate the exploitation of the fisheries resources
  • Control the introduction of exotic species
  • Undertake research and exchange biological data and statistical information, and
  • Monitor the aquatic environment and support technical cooperation on fisheries matters in general.


African Development Bank (2013). Lake Harvest Fish Farm: Enhancing Sustainable Food Security in Zimbabwe http://www.afdb.org/en/news-and-events/article/lake-harvest-fish-farm-enhancing-sustainable-food-security-in-zimbabwe-12193/.
Afrizim (2015). Lake Kariba Fish Species Tips & Pictures https://www.afrizim.com/Travel_Guides/Houseboats/Info/Fishing-2.asp.
Blow, P. & Leonard, S. 2007. Freshwater fish seed resources in Zimbabwe, pp. 491–496. In: M.G. Bondad-Reantaso (ed.). Assessment of freshwater fish seed resources for sustainable aquaculture. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 501. Rome, FAO. 2007. 628p. http://www.fao.org/tempref/docrep/fao/010/a1495e/a1495e24.pdf .
Chinhoyi University of Technology, Zimbabwe http://www.cut.ac.zw/school/wildlife/freshwater_and_fishery_science.php?a=3.
FAO (2003). Information on Fisheries Management in the Republic of Zimbabwe p. 1. http://www.fao.org/fi/oldsite/FCP/en/ZWE/body.htm.
Irin News (2015). Farmers Turn to Fishing as Zimbabwe Crops Fail http://www.irinnews.org/report/101929/farmers-turn-to-fishing-as-zimbabwe-crops-fail.
Kinadjian Lionel, Mwula Charles, Nyikahadzoi Kefasi & Songore Newman (2014). Report on the Bioeconomic Modelling of Kapenta Fisheries on Lake Kariba. Report/Rapport: SF-FAO/2014/22 March 2014 SmartFish Programme of the Indian Ocean Commission, FAO Fisheries Management Component, Ebene, Mauritius http://commissionoceanindien.org/fileadmin/projets/smartfish/FAO/Bioeconomic.pdf.
Songore N. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Dept. Fisheries Extension in Small Water Body Fisheries in Zimbabwe http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/w8514e/W8514E19.htm.
The Africa Report (2014). http://www.theafricareport.com/Southern-Africa/aquaculture-teach-a-man-to-fish-farm.html.
http://www.chronicle.co.zw/zimparks-issues-crayfish-permits/ Bibliographic Entryhttp://design.lakeharvest.com/about-lake-harvest/ .
The Role of Fisheries to Food and Nutrition Security in SADC Region https://extranet.sadc.int/english/extranet/documents/employment-and-labour/employment-and-labour-meeting-ministers-and-social-partners-may-2016-gaborone-botswana/ensadcfisheriesmeeting/.
Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development,2013.

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