Lake Malawi fisheries biomass survey will establish the health of fish stocks and help to determine the potential for commercial fishing industry and possible number of fishing licenses on Lake Malawi.
Dr Maxon Ngochera, Head of Fisheries Research Station based at Monkey Bay in Mangochi said specifically, the survey tried to achieve the following; determine fish species composition and size distribution by area; assess current fish biomass levels by area and develop bio-physical indicators of fish abundance and biodiversity and finally management recommendations based on the survey findings.
“Each year, Department of Fisheries issues commercial fishing licenses and this has to be based on up to date information on status of fish species present on the Lake. Data on standing biomass by area is vital in estimating the number of commercial fishing units that can be allocated per fishing zone,” Ngochera explained in an interview.
The survey also explored and determined new and potential fishing grounds within the length and breadth of the Lake as an aquatic ecosystem. Presently, all the data is being tabulated and a final report is expected to be completed before end of the year.
In reaction to the development that has taken over 15 years, Professor Emmanuel Kaunda Director of Aquafish Centre of Excellence and Coordinator of the AUDA- NEPAD, Southern African Network of Biosciences at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, applauded the research efforts arguing it will help estimate what species we have on Lake Malawi. He further emphasized that such data when unraveled, is very important when it comes to capture fisheries planning and management of the Lake.
“You need to know where to go especially if you are involved in commercial fishing. This data will guide species distribution and abundance which is crucial information for an investor venturing in commercial fishing initiatives,” he advised in a separate interview.
Support for Department of Fisheries research unit to conduct the survey has been provided by Restoring Fisheries for Sustainable Livelihoods in Lake Malawi (REFRESH), a USAID- funded project which builds on communities' successes under USAID and Pact's FISH project. Another key partner is the Sustainable Fisheries Aquaculture Development and Watershed Management Project, funded by the African Development Bank programme.
*“Each year, Department of Fisheries issues commercial fishing licenses and this has to be based on up to date information on status of fish species present on the Lake. Data on standing biomass by area is vital in estimating the number of commercial fishing units that can be allocated per fishing zone,” Ngochera explained in an interview.**
Lake Malawi is the country's most important fresh water fishing ground and one of the world's renowned. It is home to hundreds of cichlids species of fish endemic to it alone and the most-prized species and delicacy, being the Chambo fish.