INLAND fish resources are being decimated at an astonishing rate with illegal fish nets that measure up to 23 kilometres in total are confiscated from fish poachers each week in the Sikunga Conservancy in a channel of the Zambezi River.
The illegal fishing operations are funded by Zambian companies that buy the mono filament gill nets fro chine by the truck load. The fish is then cooked or dried by the fish poachers and are distributed as far north as the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Using fish nets and especially mono filament gillnets is against the laws and regulations governing inland fish resources but that does not stop the fish poachers and their Zambian backers from operating in Namibia. Fish guards, police officers and officials from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources confiscate illegal nets by the truckload but truckloads of new nets, bought in China at a very cheap prices, continuously gets carted back into Namibia and enables the poachers to continue with their operations.
Accoring to the Executive Director of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR), Dr. Moses Maurihingirire, said the practice of illegal fishing with gillnets in the perennial rivers on the northern border of Namibia is extremely destructive.
“We have increased our patrols along the rivers to combat illegal fishing.”
Dr. Maurihingirire said that people along the rivers are allowed to harvest fish with traditional fishing equipment but the situation went out of control since people starting using nets.
Besides the devastating fish poaching in perennial rivers such as the Kavango and Zambezi Rivers large scale fishing operations has also shifted south and into the few dams that still holds water.
At the Swakoppoort dam a village of more than 200 tents has sprung up near the water over the years and people are currently harvesting up to 20 tonnes of fresh water fish from the dam with mono filament gill nets.
Besides catching fish all the birdlife along the dam are killed and slaughtered for use as bait to catch even more fish with hand lines.
The fish poachers at the dam operate in a similar fashion to poachers at the rivers. The fish is dried and transported by the truckload to the main economic centres of Namibia to be sold.
The fish poaching is occurring in all major dams and according to some angling enthusiasts nothing is done by the relevant authorities to regulate or control the stripping of the inland fish resources.
Like with fishing in the rivers people were initially allowed to fish with conventional tackle without licences because it was seen as a subsistence activity but now that the activity has turned commercial fish stocks are simply being depleted because no regulation is exercised.
Fish in the rivers is not only an important resource from a subsistence point of view but is also a good revenue earner from tourism. Without fish in the rivers jobs in the tourism industry and millions in revenue will be lost.