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Major basins, and watersheds within them, in southern Africa
Major basins, and watersheds within them, in southern Africa

Fish populations of various types are exploited for a wide range of fishery-related purposes. Inland water catchments are regularly used for their land and water resources without regards to their impact on fish population and fisheries. These activities often result in a modified structure of the environment and the quality and quantity of water, threatening the sustainability of aquatic ecosystems and the fisheries that depend on them. Many of these alternative demands on land and water are judged by the society to be of greater value than fisheries and therefore are assigned a pre-eminent role in reaching decisions in water allocation.

Whereas fisheries problems can be resolved within the fishery by a number of mechanisms, interactions with other users are more difficult. These interactions can be considered using catchments, or watersheds, as an analytical framework. The growing scarcity of freshwater resources is leading to competition between various users, including fisheries, and is becoming a major issue. The intensification of use is also adding great pressure on water quality through pollution and eutrophication.

Conflict resolution in river basins is receiving increased attention as these conflicts have a major impact on fish stocks and fish production. Inland fisheries planners and administrators need to participate pro-actively at all levels concerning water allocation and the management of living aquatic resources. They require a forum for meeting organizations that represent the interests of the various parties and a political mechanism to ensure the implementation of any conclusions reached. Cooperative management, where two or more countries agree on a management approach of a transboundary water body, has been put forward as more sustainable than individual efforts by riparian countries.

It is recognized that many national institutions lack both integrative management approach and capacity, requiring constant capacity building from governance to science of biodiversity issues. Collaborative management mechanisms of transnational lakes and rivers must be established where they do not already exist. Current UN and EC policy states that basin plans aimed at protecting various resources be formulated. Typical conditions requiring resolution between parties for the conservation of living aquatic resources and fisheries are shown in the following table:

General conditions required for sound inland fisheries
General category Condition
Flow of water Timing of flow
Minimum acceptable flow
Speed change in discharge or water level
Habitat connectivity Maintenance of access to inflowing tributaries in lakes
Mitigation or removal of obstructions to fish movement
Connectivity to lateral marshes, floodplains, etc.
Habitat diversity Provision for adequate diversity in main water body
Maintenance of critical habitats
Maintenance of riparian vegetation structure
Water quality Avoidance of chronic or acute, diffuse or point source pollution by toxic substances
Regulation of nutrients within critical limits
Physical disturbance Limitation on boat wash
Limitation on weed cutting
Access Ensuring access to waterside by interested parties
Basin characteristics Land use practice to avoid erosion and uncontrolled runoff
Avoidance of inappropriate types of vegetation cover
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