January 2003


Zimbabwe is a land-locked country with no natural lakes. All stored water is held in reservoirs constructed primarily for drinking or irrigation water storage. Despite the existence of many dams, Zimbabwe has limited fisheries output. A concerted effort to boost fish production is essential if Zimbabwe is to increase its annual production. Commercial fishing occurs mainly on the large reservoirs such as Lake Kariba, Lake Chivero, Lake Mutirikwi, Manyame and Mazvikadei dam. Smaller dams, rivers and ponds provide fish for subsistence purposes.

Lake Kariba was formed by damming the Zambezi River. It lies on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, with an area of 5 364 km2, a length of 277 km and a mean depth of 29 m. Lake Kariba supports pelagic (offshore) and artisanal (inshore) fisheries. The pelagic fishery exploits the freshwater sardine (Limnothrissa miodon) known locally as kapenta. There are approximately 280 boats registered to fish in the pelagic fishery. The estimated annual catch in the inshore fishery in 2001 was 3 400 tonne. The inshore fishery contributed approximately 26% of the total catch from Lake Kariba. A recent survey of the inshore fishery on the Zimbabwean side, found 1 272 fishers operating with 3 198 nets and 596 boats. There are approximately 40 fishing villages along the lake shore, and the number of fishing villages fluctuates slightly from year to year.

Lake Chivero lies 37 km southwest of Harare, on the Manyame River. It has a capacity of 250.4 106 m3, a mean depth of 9.4 m and a surface area of 2 630 ha. Two types of fishing gear are used: gillnets and seine nets. Annual total production from both gillnets and seine nets has fluctuated between 160 and 412 tonne.

Lake Mutirikwi (formerly Kyle dam) lies southeast of the town of Masvingo, on the Mutirikwi River. It has a maximum depth of 57 m and a surface area of 9 105 ha. Annual production from the commercial fishery is about 20 tonne.

Lake Manyame (formerly Darwendale dam) lies downstream of Lake Chivero on the Manyame River near Norton town. It has a maximum depth of 23.6 m and a surface area of 8 100 ha. Annual production from the commercial fishery varies from about 100 up to 400 tonne.

Mazvikadei dam lies on the Mukwadzi River, in Banket, northwest of Harare. It has a storage capacity of 365 106 m3 and a surface area of 2 300 ha. The dam was constructed mainly to store water for irrigation, but a fishery has developed and fish stocks have grown to commercially exploitable levels. Annual production from the commercial fishery is approximately 4 tonne.


Overall strategy

In Zimbabwe, fish, like all other aquatic fauna, are managed under legislation governing wildlife and other natural resources. Although there is no overall policy document for fisheries per se, the overall strategy aims at sustainable utilization of the fishery resource while ensuring that there is no loss of biological diversity. The general thrust is to increase production from both capture fisheries and aquaculture in order to strengthen the rural economy, create employment and enhance household food security.

Principal legislation and management measures

The Parks and Wildlife Act (Chapter 20:14 of 1996, as amended) is the principal legislation and management Act governing the development, control and management of fisheries in Zimbabwe. Part XIV of the Act deals with fish conservation. The final authority over the fishery resource is vested in the Minister of Environment and Tourism. The Minister exercises this authority through the Director of National Parks and Wildlife Management. The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management (DNPWM), through its Director, is empowered to regulate, control, restrict or prohibit fishing in controlled waters. DNPWM is in the process of being transformed into an authority known as the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

The main management measures used are outlined below.

  • Control of fishing: waters can be declared as "fishing waters" where such a declaration is necessary or desirable for fish conservation. Fishing is allowed in specified waters and is done after issuance of a permit by the appropriate authority.

  • Authorization or prohibition of destructive fishing methods : the use of any of the following methods is prohibited unless under special permit; explosives, chemicals, poison, intoxicating substance and jigging. It is also prohibited to willfully injure or disturb the spawn of any fish or any spawning bed, bank or shallows whereon or wherein such spawn is deposited.

  • Control of introduction to waters of fish and aquatic plants and importation of live fish and fish ova: the introduction of exotic species of fish or aquatic plants into any waters and the importation of live fish or ova of any fish is prohibited except in terms of a permit. Authorization is required before importation. Such introductions/importations must comply with agreed Protocols such as CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora) and CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity). In dealing with fisheries issues, due cognizance is also given to the Precautionary Approach to Capture Fisheries and Species Introductions as outlined in the FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries.

  • Control of fish and aquatic growth: an appropriate authority can be granted permission to institute measures to reduce or increase fish populations and to eradicate or encourage plant growth within or around fishing waters. The minister reserves the powers to control any fish or aquatic plant in any water that may pose threats to fish populations in such waters.

  • Control of business of catching and selling fish: people engaging in business of catching fish or selling fish are required to have a permit.

  • Control of fishing nets: the only people who can possess fishing nets are fishing-net manufacturers or holders of valid fishing permits. On private land (waters), the appropriate authority may possess a fishing net.

  • Registration as dealer or manufacturer of fishing-nets: Authority to be a dealer or manufacturer of fishing nets is granted by the Minister of Environment and Tourism through the Parks and Wildlife Act.

  • Authorized fishing gear and regulation of type of fishing gear: The Parks and Wildlife Act has a provision for specifying fishing gear for each controlled fishing water body.

  • Possession of fish caught in contravention of the Act: possession of fish caught in contravention of the Act is an offence punishable by a fine, the amount of which is stipulated in the relevant statutes.

Each water body in Zimbabwe has instituted appropriate regulations as provided for by the Act.

Management status of major fisheries

Fisheries management information in Zimbabwe is only readily available for the Lake Kariba fishery, where fisheries statistics are published annually. For other dams, while information may be there, it is not readily accessible. Dams whose fish populations have been monitored are Lake Kariba, Lake Chivero, Lake Mutirikwi and Lake Manyame. The management status of the main water bodies is outlined below.

In Lake Kariba, kapenta (Limnothrissa miodon) is the main species exploited within the pelagic zone. Tigerfish (Hydrocynus vitattus) makes up the bulk of the by-catch. Fishing is carried out at night using lights to attract fish. The fishery is capital intensive and occurs year-round. The management of the fishery is primarily through enforcement of regulations. Entry into the fishery is limited through licensing in order to control fishing effort. The acceptable minimum mesh size is 8 mm in order to reduce the likelihood of recruitment and growth overfishing. Fishing is limited to areas more than 20 m deep in order to protect the kapenta juveniles (pre-recruits). Fishing is also prohibited within a 2-km radius of all river mouths to protect species on spawning runs up the river. No fishing is allowed within 3 km of a tourist resort because of excessive noise by generators on the fishing boats at night.

A bilateral agreement for the joint management of the Lake Kariba fishery was initiated through the Zambia/Zimbabwe SADC Fisheries project. This recognized the fact that, since the fish stocks are shared between the two riparian countries, it was imperative that a joint system of fisheries management be in place.

The main species exploited within the inshore fishery are some cichlids (Oreochromis mortimeri, Oreochromis niloticus, Sargochromis codringtonii, Tilapia rendalli), a cyprinid (Labeo altivelis), a characid (Hydrocynus vitattus), two mormyrids (Mormyrus longirostris, Mormrops anguilloides) and a clarid (Clarias gariepinus). Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) is an exotic species which, following its escape in the lake, is gradually establishing itself. The fishery is managed and policed by DNPWM.

The rules and regulations governing the inshore fishery in Lake Kariba include licensing, gear restrictions, and closed areas. The regulations used for management are primarily intended to ensure the conservation of fish species diversity while allowing for ecologically sustainable utilization and ensuring that the amenity value of the lake is maintained. The fishers require an annual licence to fish with gillnets. There are designated fishing grounds within the lake for specific fishing villages.

Closed and protected reserves include rivers, river mouths and shoreline adjacent to national parks and wildlife land. Approximately 600 km of shore is closed to fishing. This is done to enhance recruitment, protect potamodromous species, protect breeding areas, conserve fish stock that become reservoirs for replenishing neighbouring fished areas and maintain biodiversity for the long term.

Management is also done through gear restrictions. Each fisher is allowed five gillnets of 90 m each (unmounted). Gillnets with a stretched mesh size of less than 4 inches ( 100 mm) are not permitted. The use of explosives, chemicals, poisons, intoxicating substances, scoop nets, jigging and fish-driving are prohibited. Commercial fishing using spear guns, basket traps and rod-and-lines with 3 hooks or more is prohibited. A daily bag limit is in force for recreational fishing using rod-and-line or a spear gun.

In the artisanal (gillnet) fishery, an initiative to introduce fishery co-management is currently under way. This programme was initiated through the Zambia/Zimbabwe SADC Project.

In Lake Chivero the dominant species in the fishery are Oreochromis macrochir, Tilapia rendalli and Labeo altivelis. Oreochromis niloticus introduced in the mid-1990s is increasing and gradually replacing Oreochromis macrochir. In terms of abundance, there is now a strong dominance of Oreochromis niloticus in the commercial fishery, whereas Oreochromis macrochir previously accounted for 80% of the commercial catch. There are 27 reported fish species in the lake. The common ones include Oreochromis niloticus, O. macrochir, O. mossambicus, Tilapia rendalli, Labeo altivelis, Clarias gariepinus and Hydrocynus vitattus.

In Lake Manyame, the fish populations have been generally increasing due to eutrophication. The common species in the dam are Oreochromis macrochir, O. mossambicus Tilapia rendalli, Labeo altivelis, Clarias gariepinus and Hydrocynus vitattus. The common species in the commercial fishery are O. macrochir, T. rendalli and L. altivelis.

Lake Mutirikwi also has low inshore fishery yields. The main commercial fish species are O. macrochir, O. mossambicus, T. rendalli, C. gariepinus, Micropterus salmonides and Serranochromis robustus.

Aquaculture management

Provisions for aquaculture management are contained within the Parks and Wildlife Act. Anyone intending to undertake aquaculture on state dams and waters designated as Recreational Parks has to seek authority through DNPWM. The only reservoir where intensive large-scale cage culture is carried out is Lake Kariba.

Investment in fisheries

In the kapenta fishery in Lake Kariba, there are approximately 280 fishing vessels. Although no statistics on employment are available, total primary employment is more than 1 500, with a similar number involved in secondary employment, mainly fish processing and packaging. Thus, approximately 3 000 people are actively involved in the kapenta fishery. In Kariba there were 1272 people registered in the artisanal fishery, with 596 fishing vessels. In 2001, an estimated indicative average capital investment value for a kapenta fish vessel was $US 109 000. In the artisanal fishery, various fishing craft are in use, including metal boats, fibreglass boats and dugout canoes. Most of the artisanal boats are non-motorized.

Projection of supply and demand

In 2001, 13 226 tonne of fish was produced from Lake Kariba (9 826 tonne from pelagic fishery and 3 400 tonne from artisanal fishery). Annual fish production from all other capture fisheries is estimated to be about 1 000 tonne. An estimated 2 000 tonne of other fish was also harvested from fish farms throughout the country, and approximately 2 000 tonne from aquaculture in Lake Kariba. In 2001, the estimated population of Zimbabwe was between 11 and 12 million. An estimate in 1981 indicated an annual per capita fish consumption level of 2.5-3 kg, well below the SADC average of 6 kg. There has not been a marked increase in fish production from capture fisheries. Fish imports have also not increased significantly. Aquaculture production from Lake Kariba has increased significantly following the establishment of a large-scale cage-culture project.

Production from this farm is mainly for the export market. The annual per capita supply of fish in Zimbabwe is estimated to currently be 1.5-2 kg - a significant decrease since 1981. Unless production increases, annual per capita supply will continue to decrease and remain below the SADC average.

Organizational structure of the National Fisheries Authority

The main institutions involved in fisheries management in Zimbabwe are DNPWM, the Department of Agricultural Research and Extension (AREX - formerly AGRITEX (Agricultural, Technical and Extension Services)) and the Department of Research and Specialist Services (DR&SS). DNPWM (now the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority) falls under the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). AREX and DR&SS fall under the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement.

DNPWM has overall responsibility for fisheries development throughout the country. It is responsible for fisheries research and management, mainly within the Parks Estate. However, its responsibility outside the Parks Estate includes monitoring of both indigenous and exotic fish species, licensing commercial fishing operations, and enforcement of regulations governing aquatic resources outside the Parks Estate. AREX is responsible for fisheries extension outside the Parks Estate in all small dams around the country. AREX, in conjunction with Rural District Councils that have appropriate authority status, assists communities to manage fisheries resources in small dams. DR&SS has carried out fisheries-related research, mainly at its Henderson Research Station in Mazowe, near Harare.

DNPWM is the sole authority responsible for the management of the fishery resources in the Recreational Parks that include Kariba, Chivero, Mutirikwi and Manyame. DNPWM has fisheries research stations throughout the country, at Kariba, Chivero, Sebakwe, Mutirikwi, Nyanga and Matobo. Most of the research at these stations is on capture fisheries of the indigenous species. Apart from Nyanga, aquaculture research has been conducted at Chivero and Mutirikwi. Nyanga Research Station is mainly involved in trout propagation for stocking in the dams within the Nyanga National Park, but also in nearby rivers. This station also carries out research on trout, including nutrition and diseases.
DNPWM is currently being restructured. It falls under MET, and is headed by a Director. There are three deputy directors heading the three main Divisions, namely Management; Research, Extension and Interpretation; and Administration and Finance. An organigram showing the structure of the Department is attached.

A Chief Ecologist, who reports to the Deputy Director, Research, Extension and Interpretation, is in charge of the fisheries branch.



Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET)













Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management (DNPWM)



















Deputy Director
Management Division


Deputy Director
Research, Extension and Interpretation Division


Deputy Director
Administration and Finance Division












Chief Ecologist
Fisheries Branch















Fisheries Research Stations