Malawi intensifies drive to increase fish production

Published on
August 15, 2019

Malawi’s total fish production is expected to increase by 8.5 percent in 2019, after a slight decline in 2018.

The decline was triggered by falling water levels in key fishing lakes that hampered fish recruitment and breeding, according to the country’s 2018 Annual Economic Report.

Although Malawi’s total fish catch increased from 157,268 metric tons (MT) in 2016 to 199,454 MT in 2017, an equivalent of 26.8 percent rise, the report estimates a slight drop of 185,345 MT in 2018 and later rise again to 201,161 MT in 2019.

However, Malawi has initiated a partnership with with Pact Inc, Christian Aid, and the University of Rhode Island to implement a five-year project to mitigate the effects of climate change, illegal fishing, and environmental degradation on lakes Malawi, Malombe, Chilwa, and Chiuta.

The initiative, dubbed the Fisheries Integration of Society and Habitats (FISH) project, has an estimated cost of USD 13.9 million (EUR 12.5 million), which is being financed by USAID and is slated to end in September 2019. However, its impacts will be long-lasting, as its robust collection of data will be used in the future to support evidence-based decision-making related to fish-sector management and policy, according to Daniel Jamu, deputy chief of party for the FISH project.

The FISH project will “improve governance of management of fisheries in lakes Malawi, Malombe, Chiuta, Abashire, and Chilwa,” Jamu said in a Malawi Broadcasting Corporation documentary, with focus on empowering fishers to collectively manage these water bodies, which collectively account for 85 percent of Malawi’s annual fish production.

“The other component is reduction of threats to the fisheries biodiversity, which include illegal fishing, environmental degradation, and climate change,” he said.

Finally, the FISH project is meant to “improve sustainability of the fisheries by increasing the adaptive capacity of people who are utilizing the fishery, as well as fish themselves, so that they are resilient to any changes in the environment,” Jamu said.

According to Christian Aid, the project aims to benefit 70,000 households, strengthen 45 community institutions, and improve the management of 250,000 hectares of natural resources in the lakes and surrounding fishing communities.

The FISH project complements efforts by Malawi to promote international fishing industry best practices in the country, as captured in the country’s revised National Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy of 2016, which focuses on the promotion of fish quality and value addition.

“These best practices will enhance the quality, hygiene, and sanitation, and value addition of fish and fish products, to reduce the annual catch that is lost through post-harvest spoilage and insect infestation,” according to the government report.

Meanwhile, Malawi has embraced public-private partnerships to expand its fishing industry investments, with the government encouraging commercial fishing entities to seek permits to “tap offshore deep-water fish resources.”

More than 32 large-scale commercial fishing operations are now registered in Malawi, in addition to the 503 small-scale fishing permits and 143 sanitary certificates that were issued in between 2017 and 2018, earning the country USD 36,600 (EUR 32,850), an equivalent of 50.9 percent of the annual revenue target of USD 71,850 (EUR 64,500) set by the country’s National Treasury.

Furthermore, Malawi’s export of live ornamental fish to European and North American markets increased by 0.6 percent in 2017, earning the country USD 228,863 (EUR 205,400) in foreign exchange up from the previous year’s earnings of USD 222,280 (EUR 199,500). The government report for 2018 shows Germany, Hong Kong, China, and the U.S.A. as the top destinations for Malawi’s live, ornamental fish – especially those endemic to Lake Malawi such as metriaclima or maylandia, labeotropheus, aulonocara, copadichromis, melanochromis, and protomelas.

Photo courtesy of Pact Inc.

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