KATIMA MULILO - Illegal fishing in Zambezi region has irked fisheries minister Derek Klazen, who says the illicit practices pose a serious threat to the sustainability of the country’s fisheries.
This includes illegal use of fine-mesh nets, electrofishing and over-exploitation of fish stocks
According to Klazen, the government cannot overlook illegal fishing and its detrimental consequences on Namibian rivers and their delicate ecosystems.
The minister made these remarks during his recent three-day visit to the Zambezi region, where illegal fishing is said to be rife.
Together with his delegation, they, among others, had discussions about combating illegal fishing in the region.
“During our visit, we engaged with various stakeholders and conservation organisations, to gain valuable insights into the challenges faced and the collaborative efforts undertaken to combat illegal fishing,” Klazen said.
The police have on several occasions issued stern warnings against illegal fishing by both foreign and Namibian nationals.
In many instances, suspects have been arrested and the fish stock confiscated.
Nonetheless, he commended the community for their unwavering commitment to preserving natural resources and active involvement in safeguarding the rivers.
To effectively combat illegal fishing, he suggested enhanced surveillance and monitoring systems and to raise awareness among the local population about the importance of sustainable fishing.
This, he said, requires collaboration and cooperation among stakeholders, including government agencies, community leaders and civil society organisations.
“By working together, we can protect our rivers, safeguard our fish stocks and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come,” he said.
The minister’s deliberations comprised closed-doors sessions, as well as site visits to the Sikunga Conservancy fish reserve, the Likunganelo fish farm, and another at the Liselo area.
The Imuran fish farm, and the Katima Mulilo fish market were also visited by the delegation.
During these site visits and his interaction with members of the delegation and conservancies, Klazen picked up two critical messages.
One is that aquaculture services must be enhanced and the other is to protect inland fisheries at all costs.
Klazen also applauded the Sikunga Conservancy.
“These ‘river people’ remain eager to risk their lives, while some have already paid dearly, in order to protect these resources,” he said.
The shortage of fisheries inspectors within the region is some of the challenges the minister picked up during the visit that ended last Friday.
The region needs to recruit more fisheries inspectors or alternatively appoint honorary fisheries inspectors or fish guards in order to ensure compliance, while also curtailing the practices of illegal fishing in the Zambezi and other regions, it was submitted.
In response, he said the ministry welcomes this proposal and will start working towards a greater understanding of this concept within the set legal framework.
On the downside, he indicated the fishing moratorium placed on inland fisheries between December and January by the fisheries ministry is meaningless in the face of lack of adherence and strict enforcement of moratoriums in the neighbouring countries.
“What is evident is that there is a need to harmonise these moratoriums so that they are in place during the same time and that all our fishers and those in neighbouring countries strictly adhere to and observe these moratoriums,” he recommended.
Overall, he said their visit to Katima Mulilo reinforced the significance of combating illegal fishing in fisheries conservancies and the vital role river fish play in the lives of the community.
“Together, we must take immediate action to protect our rivers, preserve our aquatic ecosystems and ensure the sustainable management of our fisheries. Let us work hand in hand to combat illegal fishing, promote responsible fishing practices and secure a prosperous future for all,” Klazen appealed.