WE applaud the efforts of the Department of Livestock and Fisheries in upholding the fish ban.
The department relentlessly and actively undertakes boat patrols on most of Zambia’s water bodies and ensures that those found abrogating the ban are arrested and prosecuted.
Today, we publish a story from Chirundu District, in which the senior fisheries officer is appealing to people living along the Zambezi River to respect the fish ban and warning them that fisheries officers are on the ground to ensure that there is no fishing and selling activities until the ban is lifted on March 1.
The officer also warns that people found going against the fish ban will prosecuted and their fishing nets and any materials used confiscated.
What brings sadness to us is the information that, while government is making every efforts to ensure that the fish replenishes in our water bodies, other people are reported to be busy working, to completely reverse this drive through the use of illegal and wrong fishing methods such as mosquito nets.
It makes sad news because we all know how the mosquito nets, potato bags and shade netting material, for instance, with their tiny holes, draw all the fish from the waters including the fingerings which are supposed to supplement the fish stocks.
Not too long ago, there were also other media reports about the Fisheries Department in Kafue confiscating huge amounts of fresh and dry fish from people in the district who obviously went fishing against the annual fish ban.
Nearly every year when the fish ban is enforced, it brings about controversy among the stakeholders involved who include the fishermen, traders and consumers, for the reason that parties involved have different perception of the fish ban activity and their level of interest and use of fish during the period differs.
People need to probably understand that the annual fish ban, by government through the Department of Fisheries, is not in any way intended to punish fishermen, traders and consumers or to deprive them from earning a living but is aimed promoting sustainable utilization of fisheries resources.
This move ultimately contributes to the growth of the economy through generating employment, income and improved availability of fish which adds to poverty reduction by making it available as a reliable and sustainable source of protein, especially for the rural communities.
Basically, the fish ban which restricts fishing activities in the fishery areas, is intended to allow the fish to breed and the period December 1 to end of February has been chosen because it is the peak breeding period for the fish.
People ought to keep in mind that fish is a renewable natural resource but not inexhaustible. Therefore, the change of status of the fishing sector, from subsistence to an industry, definitely requires implementation of various measures that will grow the fish stocks.
While we applaud the efforts of the Fisheries Department in ensuring that people observe and uphold the fish ban, we wish to caution them that managing such a government programme, which is obviously opposed by some, does not only call prosecuting of offenders but also demands for active sensitization of the people in order for them to properly know the reasons for it.
We therefore would like to end by recommending that the department also implements, on a serious note, serious awareness programmes to educate the people on the reasons behind the fish ban.