Fish poaching is prevalent in all major dams in Zimbawe. The activities of poachers have increased in areas such as Kariba, Chivero, Manyame, Mutirikwi and Mazvikadei. Most fish poachers said they were forced to illegally patrol in the country’s waters because of the economic challenges and unemployment.
“I have a family to feed and jobs are scarce and this is the only way to survive,” said one fisher.
In Zimbabwe, fish, like all other aquatic fauna, are managed under legislation governing wildlife and other natural resources.
Although there is no overall policy document for fisheries per se, the overall strategy aims at sustainable utilization of the fishery resource while ensuring that there is no loss of biological diversity.
The general thrust is to increase production from both capture fisheries and aquaculture in order to strengthen the rural economy, create employment and enhance household food security.
According to Wikipedia Illegal fishing takes place where vessels operate in violation of the laws of a fishery.
This can apply to fisheries that are under the jurisdiction of a coastal state or to
high seas fisheries regulated by regional organisations.
A report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) showed that the capture fishery is threatened by increasing illegal fishing activities.
“Poachers encroach in areas set aside as breeding grounds for fish. Poaching introduces error margins in yield estimates, as the bulk of fish being caught is unaccounted for, thereby affecting management decision,” said the report.
An official from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources said the problem of illegal fishing was on the rise.
“Fish poachers are on the increase and what is worrying is that some of them poison the water so that all the marine life is affected.
Fishers should regularize their activities and it will help the ministry curb overfishing in the country’s waters,” said the official.
The Minister of Environment and Natural Resources has the final authority over the fishery resource, which he exercises through the Director General of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority is empowered, through its Director to regulate, control, restrict or prohibit fishing in controlled waters.
The Parks and Wildlife Management Authority have overall responsibility for fisheries development throughout the country. Its responsibility within the Parks Estates includes research and management.
Last year media reports said thirty one Zambians were arrested for poaching fish and fishing in prohibited zones along the Zambezi River in an operation in which police also recovered eight commercial fishing rigs.
The poachers were nabbed during a joint anti-poaching operation between the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and Zimbabwe Republic Police to weed out illegal fishing activities along the river.
The authority’s spokesperson, Caroline Washaya-Moyo said at the time the commercial rigs belonged to four fishing companies – Jembo Jalata, Mulolo Mass and Manyoni Fishing Co-operatives.
The fishing co-operatives all paid fines of US$4 000 each to redeem fishing rigs.
“The 31 fish poachers of Zambian origin are between the ages of 14 and 27,” Washaya Moyo said.
She said the authority was facing a number of challenges in its quest to police the water body chief among them being shortages of speed boats. The boats are needed to police the area stretching over 1 000 square kilometres.
Washaya-Moyo said the authority requires at least 2 000 litres of petrol to effectively patrol the water body. The authority also warned fish poachers that officers on patrol would remain on the ground to ensure that the Zambezi River is protected.
The four were arrested for catching kapenta in prohibited breeding zones and police seized two commercial fishing rigs from the poachers from Kaoma district and Livingstone.
Fish poaching is a major concern along the Zambezi River, which divides Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Zambezi River, a transboundary watercourse shared by eight countries at the southern tip of Africa and sharing resources such as fish from this natural water frontier has become a major problem as over-fishing has depleted waterways in other areas and more poachers
are encroaching on Zimbabwe.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation fishing is central to the livelihood of more than 200 million people globally, especially in the developing world. But fish stocks are in jeopardy and under increasing pressure from over-fishing and environmental degradation.