Caprivi & Kavango

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Green light for first ‘Fish Protection Areas’

Green light for first ‘Fish Protection Areas’

Green light for first ‘Fish Protection Areas’

Anglers fishing in the Upper Zambezi in recent years complained that the fishing was not as good as it used to be. They were not the only ones - fishermen living on the Caprivi floodplain were also unhappy that their livelihood was being affected by excessive fishing with illegal nets.

There were several causes for the decline, notably the rising human population and thus greater numbers of fishermen competing for the same resources. This was compounded by improved access to the area, particularly the new road constructed from Livingstone to Sesheke, which meant fish from the area could easily be transported to urban areas such as Lusaka. Businessmen from outside the area were eager to exploit the resources without consideration for the long-term sustainability of the fishery

Governments throughout Africa find it difficult to manage freshwater fisheries, not through lack of trying but because they lack the human and financial resources to do so. To resolve these problems, the Zambezi/Chobe Fisheries Project, working with the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries and Natural Resources and Zambia’s Department of Fisheries, aims to give the Caprivi communities the responsibility to manage their own fish resources.

The project is bringing together all stakeholders in the fishery and my job as Project Executant is to discuss the issues and find ways of resolving the problems to ensure healthy stocks of the important large fish species remain in the river for generations to come. Anglers and fishermen share a common interest here.

Management of natural resources in Namibia has greatly benefited from the establishment of conservancies, which give local communities the right to control their own natural resources, including wildlife and plants. The conservancy movement is spreading in Caprivi and most of the floodplains are now covered by existing or proposed conservancies.

With their commitment to management through their committees, conservancies provide an ideal mechanism for managing the fisheries at a local level in future.

One of the possible mechanisms to protect fish stocks is to establish areas where fish are protected from netting and allowed to grow and breed. Marine Protected Areas are now a widely recognised and successful way of conserving and boosting fish stocks, improving catches for fishermen operating in adjoining areas.

This concept has now been applied in Caprivi and conservancies are establishing Fish Protection Areas (FPAs). In addition to protecting fish from netting in these areas to ensure their future livelihoods, they see the opportunity to benefit financially by allowing catch and release angling in these FPAs on payment of fees to the conservancies.

The project is helping the conservancies and the first two pilot FPAs are now being gazetted, the Kasaya Channel in Impalila Conservancy and the Kalimbeza Channel flowing past Island View Lodge in Sikunga Conservancy. Nwanyi Angling Club in Katima Mulilo is actively assisting the project and the conservancies in developing their management plans for these FPAs and has promised support in managing them.

If successful, these two areas may prove models for future FPAs that will lead to improved angling and improved food security for local communities throughout the Zambezi system.

Read more about the region in our destination guide:

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 08, March 2012)