Malawi loses millions in unsustainable fisheries
Friday, 02 May 2014 15:43

The Malawi Government says the unsustainable use of the country’s fisheries resources is causing losses of up to US$27 million per year, or 0.8 per cent of the country’s GDP.

In a recent publication, Malawi’s Ministry of Economic Planning and Development said fisheries resources, which contribute to the livelihoods of more than 1.6 million people, were under severe strain.

Entitled Economic Analysis of Sustainable Natural Resource Use in Malawi, the report noted how fish used to be the most affordable source of animal protein in Malawi. But an increase in population, overfishing, dwindling catch sizes, and rising fish prices have reduced per capita fish consumption from 9.4 kilograms in 1990 to 5.4 kilograms in 2008.

With the assistance of several programs and development initiatives from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Malawi government is working to improve fisheries resources by economically empowering local communities.

The Poverty Environment and Initiative (PEI) program, for instance, aims to enhance contributions to sustainable fisheries management in the hopes of reducing poverty, turning around poor economic growth, and achieving the UN’s millennium development goals (MDGs).

Another UNDP program, known as the Community Development and Knowledge Management for the Satoyama Initiative (COMDEKS), is currently underway in Malawi’s in Nkhata Bay district, a lake shore district in northern part of the country.

COMDEKS aims at enhancing, maintaining and revitalising the resilience of landscapes and seascapes to support both people’s livelihoods and natural ecosystems. Local communities are given grants which are then used for the construction of fish ponds and local aquaculture projects, thus easing pressure on the fish stocks within Lake Malawi. The project is funded by the Japan Biodiversity Fund.

These and similar programs have improved local fish production levels in the country, with fish farming causing a slight uptick in production levels. Between 1988 and 1995, a sharp drop in fisheries catch levels was experienced. This was then reversed in the period spanning 1998 to 2007, helped along by the country’s aquaculture industry, which had grown by over 50 per cent by 2008.

However, aquaculture initiatives still only contribute about two per cent of Malawi’s total fish production – a far cry from meeting the nation’s protein requirements.

Raphael Mweninguwe

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