Caprivi & Kavango

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Seeking answers on the future of fish from the Zambezi River

Seeking answers on the future of fish from the Zambezi River

Seeking answers on the future of fish from the Zambezi River

Fish from the Zambezi River are used by a variety of people, from small children catching fish with reed fishing rods from roadside culverts for fun, to commercial net fishermen and recreational anglers. These latter and the tourist industry that they support are an important component of the Zambezi fisheries. The cleaner in a fishing lodge is as much part of the fishing industry as the gill net fisherman in his makoro.

Of all the habitats used by fishes and fishers, floodplains are the most productive. The fisheries of the Caprivi floodplain provide a livelihood for an estimated 3 600 households from Namibia alone, while in Botswana and Zambia, communities along the rivers and floodplains are also heavily reliant on fish for subsistence and commercial gain.

A long-term research programme on the Zambezi River has shown that the stocks of the important commercial fish species are now overexploited. Livelihoods, already vulnerable to the effects of environmental variability on fish abundance, are under threat. Management intervention is therefore particularly urgent.

The Namibia Nature Foundation is coordinating a project to develop sustainable management systems through conservancies and fishing communities. Researchers of the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources are collaborating with scientists from the University of Namibia and the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity. The project is a long-term assessment of the state of fish populations in the upper Zambezi, Kavango, Kwando and Chobe Rivers as well as in the 300 km2 Lake Liambezi.

The work is supported not only through Namibia Government funding but also by organisations such as the WWF, the Nedbank GO-Green Fund, the South African National Research Foundation, and NORAD.

Based in the Caprivi, Richard Peel and Evans Simasiku are at the forefront of the research, conducting surveys to independently assess if and by how much the fisheries have changed over the last ten years. They are also working on the biology of important species, particularly the larger breams. Their results will be used to determine what mesh sizes should be used and what harvest levels are sustainable.

The success of any management strategy ultimately depends on how effectively it is implemented. We will keep you updated on research results and other news from these projects in the future.

Richard Peel is undertaking research into the biology of the larger breams, like this redbreast, in the Caprivi Region. (SAIAB/O.Weyl)

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 10, Sept 2012)

Read more about the region in our destination guide: