MAKENA - Last year, about 200 monofilament fishing nets were confiscated.
More than 50 nets were further seized in the last three months by a community river patrol operation that cooperates with fisheries inspectors and police in the Ndiyona constituency.
Illegal fishermen have been drag netting the Kavango River to catch more fish to sell without permits and many are using the banned monofilament fishing nets.
“No one was arrested this time, but we always make arrests of illegal fishermen but in most cases, they are given fines when found in possession of unauthorised fishing nets or when found with large quantities of fish that we suspect they are going to sell,” said police border guard commander, Andreas Shilelo.
“If you look at the way they are conducting their fishing, they are taking even the smallest fish and the future of our fish species is at risk, so that is why this operation was initiated to protect the fish species and the river ecosystem,” Shilelo said.
On Sunday, deputy minister of home affairs Daniel Kashikola was in the area and opted to join the operation and about nine nets were impounded during a one-day operation.
“This operation is an eye opener. If this continues, it will make a difference,” Kashikola said.
“I normally visit the borderlines annually to see what challenges are here as well as to see the conditions our staff are working in,” he noted.
The border patrol is a team of residents living along the Kavango River in the Ndiyona constituency as well as from other constituencies along the river.
They teamed up with the fisheries inspectors to curb illegal fishing and crossing during this time when the borders are closed.
“This morning we went out to take out some illegal fishing nets with fisheries inspectors and it was very successful. We took out about nine illegal nets this morning and we do this on a two-weekly to monthly basis,” said Deon Botes, owner of Okacuito River Camp at Makena village in Kavango East, who initiated the river patrol operation to clear the river off illegal fishing nets to save the river ecosystem.
“We are facing a major problem as some of our fish species are facing extinction due to the use of monofilament fishing nets that are prohibited. The main problem is the people that are selling them while they know it’s illegal to fish with such nets,” Botes noted.
According to Botes, the use of monofilament nets is illegal because they affect the river ecosystems drastically. It also reduces the numbers of fish species as it is happening in the Kavango River now.
Reducing the stock of a particular species can affect other species such as birds that feed off river fish. The birds leave the area when river fish decline.
The border residents have been working together with the fisheries inspectors and the police for the past three years, trying to save the river from illegal fishing, drag netting and other illegal activities.
According to Botes, in the past three years, he has seen an increase in the fish population but not so much, yet he believes if the operation continues, there will be positive outcomes.
“It will make a difference but we are still struggling with the border residents.”