Countries concerned about Lake Malawi
Wednesday, October 03, 2001
African Eye News Service, Blantyre, Malawi
A visit to Malawi would be incomplete without a sample of "chambo", a delicious variety of fish once abundant in Lake Malawi, one of Africa's largest bodies of fresh water.
But this particular species of the tilapia family is facing extinction along with many of the over 500 varieties found in the beautiful lake.
Over-fishing and non-adherence to fishing off-seasons by lakeshore inhabitants is depleting fish stocks and threatening the abundance of natural resources found in and around the waters.
Lakeshore inhabitants are dependant on fishing for survival as the lake contributes 75% of the protein requirements for Malawi alone.
This has prompted a persistent call by officials from the three countries surrounding the lake for locals to take better care of their natural heritage.
Authorities from Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique met in Lilongwe, Malawi's capital at the end of last month to harmonise and strengthen rules on the use and conservation of the environment and natural resources with fishing high on the agenda.
Malawi's deputy minister of natural resources and environmental affairs, Ludoviko Shati said after the meeting that he was concerned about the breach of fishing regulations by Tanzania and Mozambique.
"Our shared natural resources are beneficial to us all, but our friends have not been complying with fishing regulations," he said.
But Malawi can't claim innocence either. Conservation beach committees set up by Malawi's department of fisheries have noted a rampant breach of rules by traditional chiefs in the area.
The corrupt traditional chiefs are accused of taking bribes from fisherman to allow them to fish during the off-season.
Fishing is regulated to ensure that the fish have a chance to breed and their fry have a chance to mature. If rules are breached certain species are in great danger of being wiped out completely.
Last month's discussions between the trio were pre-empted by a meeting between Malawi and Tanzania to discuss the Songwe River, which borders the two in the northern part of Malawi.
The fluctuating levels of the meandering Songwe have been a cause of conflict among locals in the boundary districts
During flood years the river expands rising above the demarcated boundary but during drier seasons it contracts making the boundary lines a constant matter of dispute.