1. The “fish ban” has absolutely nothing to do with the cholera we have seen in Zambia, and is a completely separate issue that was put in place purely as a fish conservation measure.
2. There is no scientific evidence from anywhere in the world that proves fisheries contribute in any way to the spread of cholera.
3. After many years of having this fish ban in place, it has made no impact at all to the improvement of fisheries in Zambia.
4. Scientific evidence has conclusively shown that multi-species fisheries such as ours here in Zambia are actually negatively affected by such closures. The remedies that work are changing the selectivity of fishing gears and implementing size of fish restrictions, plus restricting entry to the fishery through licencing.
5. The massive unemployment and decreased nutrition created by this measure has already been seen in the economy and nutritional health of our citizens. This hardly makes up for the few cholera cases now being recorded which are in the cities, not the rural areas.
6. Exporters of fish from Zambia are now likely to see their fledgling businesses collapse, and will probably blame government for their losses. International trades in fish are bound by contract, and once broken because of erratic and unreliable supplies, will seriously harm Zambias reputation in the international fish business.
This extension of the fish ban makes no sense at all, and has the capacity to seriously damage the economy, both in the immediate future and in the long term, unless it is immediately rescinded.
A Times of Zambia article from the past-
Every year, all fishery areas in Zambia are closed to fishing from about December 1, to the beginning of March the following year, except for Lake Kariba and Lake Tanganyika. The two are not affected by the annual fishing ban because they are shared water bodies and, therefore, have different management protocols and are mainly the sources of small fish called Kapenta, which is highly migratory. According to the Fisheries Act of the Laws of Zambia, it is an offence to carry out fishing activities or to be in possession of fish during the fishing ban period. My findings show that the affected areas are Kafue River and flood plain fishery, Super Upper Kafue Fishery, Upper Zambezi, Lower Zambezi from the dam wall to the Zambezi-Luangwa confluence. Others are Lukanga Swaps, Bangweulu Fishery and the swamps, Mweru-wa-ntipa, Mweru-Luapula, Lusuwashi and Chambeshi Fishery.
The Government effects the ban which is aimed at avoiding fishing during the breeding season to ensure the replenishing of the fast depleting natural resources. Fishermen practice indiscriminate fishing and sometimes use illegal means like domestic explosives, mosquito nets and traditional fish poison. The use of such methods have led to the depletion of fish stocks, hence the ban on all small scale and commercial fisheries give fish a chance to breed. Some people, however, question whether the ban is for the best and its contribution towards the actual replenishing of the fish to the water bodies and its implication on the country and the consumers in the country.
Vice-President Guy Scott once raised one of these points in Parliament while as an opposition Parliamentarian. Dr Scott said that when he was Agriculture minister, he had asked scientists at the Fisheries Department in Chilanga to quantify the benefits of the fishing ban. According to him the result was that they were unable to say, with any certainty, that there was any gain at all.
Zambia shares some water bodies with Botswana, Namibia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but the fishing ban is seemingly only effected on the Zambian side, rendering the exercise irrelevant.
Last year, some fish mongers in Mwandi District of Western Province appealed to Government to review the fishing ban in areas where water is shared with neighbouring countries which have no similar bans. Apart from Zambia, the Zambezi River Basin for instance is shared among seven other countries namely; Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Further, it is reported that most of the fish that is confiscated ends up being sold by the officers who confiscate it. This is notwithstanding the fact that legally, the disposal of the fish is subject to order from the courts.
The confiscated fish may be donated to some hospitals, prisons, schools as well as other community-based entities. Sadly, even some people in possession of dry fish, which could have been caught way before the ban was effected, may lose their fish. The officers do not seem to have any means to determine whether the fish was caught before or after the fishing ban came into effect. Fishing is the main source of livelihood and protein, particularly for people near the water bodies in the country. Some observers, therefore, say other methods of preserving the fish stocks should be considered, especially bearing in mind that, for centuries, our ancestors managed to maintain the fish stocks. As a result of fishing ban, fishermen who depend on fishing, sneak in the night to do their fishing and sell their catch in the early hours of the day to avoid being arrested. At the peak of the ban in 2012, Luapula Province Minister Benson Kapaya found several fishermen fishing while others were found selling their catches. In 2009 the Government through the Department of Fisheries launched 24 marine boats in 24 different community zones which were meant for the supervision and monitoring of fishing during the fishing ban season. Luapula Province kicked-off the launch of the 24 banana boats to ensure the approaching fish ban was effective.
By Adrian Piers