MAUN: Shortly after government imposed the fishing ban, Lake Ngami waters have now been invaded by illegal fishing.
In March government announced the suspension of fishing at the lake effective from March 1 to February 28, 2016. The suspension was instituted to solve environmental concerns at the lake, allow the finalisation of fishing regulations and for the development of the Lake Ngami Community Trust.
Hardly two months after the suspension, Mmegi is informed that some local fishermen with connections to Zambian fish traders are exploiting gaps in the security at the lake to fish illegally. On Monday Ngamiland regional Wildlife coordinator, Molothanyi Bolt Othomile confirmed that there is a worrying development of illegal fishing on the lake waters.
He said some people have been arrested for fishing illegally adding that many fishing nets have been retrieved from the water despite the fishing suspension.
Othomile said during an operation held from May 8 to 22 they arrested 10 people for illegal fishing, who paid a P200 admission of guilt charge. Othomile said they also conducted another operation from May 29 to June 2 in which two people were arrested in possession of two fishing nets and 189 fish.
Othomile could not confirm nor deny whether those caught fishing illegally have connections with the Zambian fish traders.
Mmegi is on good authority that a lot of fishermen still owe some Zambian traders who had made upfront payments but the former could not deliver after government suspended fishing at the lake.
The suspicion is that some fishermen could be under pressure to fish illegally because of the money they owe to the Zambians. “All illegal fishermen arrested by far are Batswana, but we cannot say they are fronting for foreigners.” On June 4, 10 fishing nets were retrieved from the lake and confiscated while the following day 19 fishing nets were removed from the lake. Othomile said the operation is still on.
Meanwhile, Othomile admitted that they have inadequate staff on the ground to police the whole lake area.
He confirmed that this is because they have to evenly spread their staff at all the fishing areas. Othomile however said plans are underway to strengthen Lake Ngami Community Trust, adding that a tender for the construction of a lodge has been advertised in the media.
He said the lodge would be a joint venture between the private sector and the trust.
Furthermore, Othomile said an application has been forwarded to the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Park for funding for construction of the camping sites for trusts.
Ngamiland Council Of non-Governmental Organisation spearheads the move.