Expert calls for national policy on fishing

MAUN: Fisheries Biologist at the University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute (UBORI), Ketlhatlogile Keta Mosepele has called for a national fishing policy.

In an interview with Mmegi this week, Mosepele said the policy would offer a framework in which fishing will be managed in Botswana. He said without any framework fishing management has been haphazard in the country.

“Fishing directly affects people’s livelihoods. It is therefore imperative that there is a guide on how it should be conducted,” he said.

Mosepele punched holes into Botswana’s conduct of the fishing sector.  He said government still considers the sector a ‘hobby’ not a productive sector.

He said all along policy makers have considered fishing insignificant adding that the sector’s contribution to the economy was therefore perceived as zero when it is not true.

“Fishing in Botswana is undervalued. Imagine that the government does not even know how much of the fish is exported from Botswana.” He also said that its importance should not only be measured in terms of contribution to the GDP but contribution to livelihoods, food and nutritional security.

Mosepele said in 2007 they conducted a study at UBORI, which proved that under five children from the fishing communities are healthier than those from non- fishing communities.

He said the sector lacks financial support from the government.” Fishing used to be under the department of Animal Health in the ministry of Agriculture where it was overlooked in terms of funding with cattle given priority. He said government later decided to move the sector to the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism saying now fishing is slowly dying under this ministry. He said once again the sector competes with wildlife in terms of funding. Mosepele said the relocation of fishing presented a new challenge, as there is now a clash of philosophies from the time it was at the Ministry of Agriculture.

” At the Ministry of Agriculture, fishing was more about production but at Environment, Wildlife and Tourism ministry it is more about conservation,” he said.

Concerning the Lake Ngami fishery, Mosepele said he doubts the reports of overfishing in the area. ”I think the problems at the lake have to do with pollution not overfishing. It is not true that the lake can be overfished as the system does not allow that to happen,” he said.

He added: “The lake system is a boom and burst system meaning the lake fills for some time and then goes dry again at some time. When you have a system like that you cannot overfish it but you have to take out the fish when it still booms,” he said.

He also advised that government should not consider the Zambian and Democratic Republic of Congo nationals who come to buy fish at the lake as a problem as they bring a market for the fishermen. ”These people are bringing a market which previously was not there.” He said all is needed is for government to provide an oversight through the involvement of relevant ministries such as the ministry of Trade and strengthening of the Lake Ngami Community trust in the trade to ensure it is conducted safely.

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