Malawi’s annual fish output is expected to drop by nine percent in 2016 to 131 451 tonnes from the previous year’s 144 315 tonnes largely due to an anticipated decrease in some fish species.
However, it is anticipated that in 2017, the country’s annual fish output will rise to 138 632 tonnes, raking in K115.1 billion in earnings, according to a government report.
The national catch statistics from all water bodies in Malawi show that total fish production had registered an increase from 116 128 tonnes in 2014 to 144 315 tonnes in 2015 with about 90.16 percent of the catch from Lake Malawi, 4.09 percent from Lake Malombe, 3.92 percent from Lake Chirwa and 1.03 percent from Shire River.
In 2015, Malawi earned K108.6 billion from the fish sales, said the report.
Department of Fisheries assistant director Friday Njaya said in an interview on Tuesday while nine percent may not be a huge drop, some livelihoods will be affected by the decline as many people in the country rely on fish farming for survival.
He said the fisheries sub-sector, which is composed of capture fisheries, aquaculture and aquarium trade sub-sectors, is one of the major sources of employment in the country directly employing about 61 000 fishers and indirectly employing over half a million people who are involved in other ancillary activities such as fish processing, fish marketing, boat building and engine repairs.
“A lot of livelihoods are going to be affected with nearly 61 000 fish farmers directly employed through fish farming,” he said.
Njaya said there could be a number of possible reasons for the drop in annual fish production, including climate change and over fishing.
“Climate change has also impacted fish farming as some lakes such as Lake Chirwa have ended up in recession thereby making life difficult for fish breeding, especially for engraulicypris sardella (usipa) and barbus paludinosus (matemba).
“The floods that hit the Lower Shire also affected some fish species. While they are recovering, you should expect to see a drop in fish volumes.”
He said another challenge that the country has is overfishing, especially in the case of chambo in Lake Malawi, adding that it takes between three to four years for them to recover, hence the decline.
Nonetheless Njaya said the department is yet to assess the damage of drought on aquaculture fish farming in ponds, with Malawi having between 6 000 to 8 000 ponds, with most of them drying up.
Earlier, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) Professor Emmanuel Kaunda said fish farming can be a profitable venture for farmers if they use low-cost feed and have appropriate marketing conditions sustainable for commercialising small-scale aquaculture.
Malawi has about four percent of the world’s fish species and 14 percent of all known freshwater fish species, according to the United States Agency for International Development (Usaid). n