A tale of two swamps – Where the fishery is under pressure

At the end of some plantation fields the road spread out into a wide flat area of bare earth surrounded by single storey brick buildings.  Almost every piece of ground was covered.  Around the edge were thirty stalls selling all manner of goods – plastics, metal containers, matches, milk powder, t shirts, football shirts, dress shirts, socks, sandals and shoes, mosquito nets, and more.  Out in the sun fish were drying, nets were spread and all over fishermen were working away.  We passed along the water front to watch recently hauled in nets being picked clean of fish.  We were eyed suspiciously by some of the fishermen mending their nets on upturned pirogues.  Ian noted that the average size of the individual fish in these catches was much smaller even than further up the Kafue river.  He also saw that some of the nets that were drying were made from mosquito netting.  Despite the rules of net size that the fisheries department were meant to be enforcing, people were openly fishing with a fine mesh – one that even a mosquito could not escape let alone small fry.  Hence the tiny fish that were being trawled up from the river.

This village was only about 40km from Lusaka and it was obvious that they had a large market to try and feed.  We were told that the village was full of people who had migrated from other parts of the country, including the larger towns and cities.  Our meeting here was treated with much more suspicion and there was a lot of arguing – mainly about the ineffectuality of the Fisheries Department especially from those people who fished legally but saw the flouting of the law on a daily basis when they came to places like this.  Whereas elsewhere in the Kafue basin we saw little need for careful regulation – just a light touch to keep the status quo – here the situation needed careful policing to avoid a collapse of the fishery in the next few years.

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