Fish prices have continued to rise amid declining stocks, a development that threatens income generation and consumption.
Department of Fisheries director Friday Njaya, in an interview on Tuesday, confirmed the declining fish stocks, especially for chambo due to several factors.
He,however, observed that increasing production of usipa and other smaller species has reduced revenues for the industry.
Njaya said the declining stocks will affect per capita consumption of fish, currently at eight kilogrammes per year, which is lower than the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended 15 kg per year.
“Indeed there is a decline of fish stocks in our lake due to various reasons, including habitat degradation, non-compliance to fishing regulations and limited alternative sources of income for lakeshore fishing communities.
“When we look at total fish production, we can say it has been increasing only that over 60 percent constitutes usipa and other smaller fish species,” he said.
Njaya said government has instituted several measures, including the introduction of a vessel monitoring system on Lake Malawi, reviewing fishing regulations and enhancing fish quality through the adoption of better fish processing facilities such as solar rent driers.
A spot-check in some markets in Blantyre shows that a five-litre bucket of usipa and utaka is selling at K6 000 from K4 000 two months ago, representing a 50 percent increase while a kilogramme of chambo now costs K3 500 from and an average of K2 500.
A fish trader at Limbe Market, Vincent Amidu, said although the declining fish stocks have pushed up prices, the market is still struggling to meet the rising demand.
“Although we are able to generate some profits from the sales, some species are in low supply and customers are now resorting to imported fish,” he said
One of the major players in the fish industry, The Foods Company Limited, formerly Maldeco, which has a 35 percent market share, said their capture fisheries volumes has continued to dwindle over the years due to climate change and over fishing from illegal fishing operations.
Fish contributes about 70 percent of the dietary animal protein intake of Malawians and 40 percent of the total protein supply.
According to the 2018 Malawi Government Annual Economic Report, in 2017 there was a three percent increase in the number of people employed in the sector to 63 023 from 61 143 in 2016.