Friday, November 19, 2010

The same sad story.

I've been catching up on the history of Lake Malawi fisheries and their management lately. One of the best compilations of articles on the subject are the proceedings from the Lake Malawi Fisheries Management Symposium held in 2001. I haven't found many more recent publications on the subject.
Unfortunately the story of Lake Malawi's fisheries is very similar to that of other fisheries around the world. Advanced trawling techniques combined with insufficient or inaccurate determinations of MSYs coupled with a lack of will or ability to enforce quotas and fishing gear restrictions led to overfishing in most parts of Lake Malawi, particularly in the south, and in the case of Lake Malombe to the near total collapse of the chambo fishery.

The central role that foreign aid organizations have played in this sad tale is also common in Africa. Fortunately Lake Malawi has not experienced yet the disasters that befell Lake Victoria due to eutrophication and the invasion of exotic species. Watch this acclaimed documentary, Darwin's Nightmare, for more on that.

Next I want to look at the numerous aquaculture projects, also entirely donor-funded, that have been implemented in Malawi. The promotion of an aquaculture industry in South Korea has been quite successful both economically and as way to transition existing fishers away from unsustainable fishing practices to potentially more controllable fish farming. Many aquatic and marine conservationists are as skeptical of aquaculture as they have been of open-sea/lake fishing but, although far from perfect, I think aquaculture is at least a step in the right direction.

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