FRANCISTOWN: Sehithwa Police have raised a concern over alarming rate of illegal fishermen in Lake Ngami despite the fishing ban imposed by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP).
Over the past years, villagers in the proximity of Lake Ngami have been involved in fishing during the closed season at the same lake despite numerous interventions by Lake Ngami Conversation Trust (LNCT), DWNP together with the police.
Last week, the DWNP ordered the squatter fishermen to vacate Lake Ngami before April 21.
The DWNP, Sehithwa assistant head of station, Moses Masaise was quoted by a local newspaper saying that they took the decision to move the fishermen from the area because fishing was suspended at Lake Ngami.
In an interview this week, Sehithwa Police Station commander, Superintendent Nshaki Mabophiwa said they were worried about illegal fishing activities taking place at Lake Ngami.
He also said they have registered alarming rate of fishermen who were caught red-handed fishing in the lake whilst there is a ban imposed by the custodians of the lake.
Mabophiwa disclosed that on February 26 this year they recorded five cases of illegal fishermen who were caught red-handed and charged them for fishing regardless of the ban.
He added that all the fishermen paid P500 in admission of guilt. He further said after the incident they reported the matter to the DWNP and the Conservation Trust to intervene on the matter because they were aware that the fishing quotas were not availed at the moment.
Mabophiwa added: “On April 4, 2021 we arranged for a meeting with all the relevant stakeholders at the lake to address the matter. When we arrived at Ngami Lake, we found about 70 illegal fishermen at the area.” He further said the illegal fishermen were informed that fishing was then banned and no one was allowed
The concerned Police chief said the fishermen were given next week Wednesday to vacate the area.
Mabophiwa further said that Lake Ngami is currently receiving natural inflow from local streams and rivers hence attracting more fishermen.
He added that natural inflow of water to the lake also brings about negative impacts such as drowning and missing persons’ reports.
He also said that if people continue to disobey the law than simply waiting for the fishing quotas, there is a greater chance that they will be putting their lives at risk because in the past people had been reported missing and some drowned whilst fishing.
He urged people to wait for the fishing quotas which are normally followed by raffles and lifting of the ban in order to start fishing again.
He said those who would win the raffles would then be awarded with the fishing license and fish freely when the fishing ban is lifted.
He was also concerned about littering at the lake by the illegal fishermen.
Mabophiwa added that littering ends up causing land and water pollution which would be hazardous to the environment, humans and animals.
He also encouraged fishermen to observe the COVID-19 health protocols at all times.
The fish Protection Regulations of Botswana prohibit catching of fish without a license.
The same regulations further read that any person who contravenes the provisions of this regulation shall be guilty of an offence and liable in the case of first conviction to a fine not exceeding P200 or the imprisonment to a fine not exceeding P500 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both.