A two-decade old weir on Bua River in Nkhotakota has become a barrier to free movement of migratory lake salmon to spawn upstream, fisheries officials have said.
They said this is threatening the species survival and potential eggs that would have hatched into fingerlings to boost the population are being lost.
The officials said this during a site visit by United States ambassador Robert Scott. The US, through USAid is supporting the Restoring Fisheries for Sustainable Livelihoods in Lake Malawi (Refresh) project in the country.
It was learnt that in the rainy season salmon locally known as mpasa migrate upstream of Bua River from Lake Malawi to spawn, mainly in well-oxygenated, flowing waters.
The spawning period starts with the onset of the rains and continues again from May to October. Once hatched, the fingerlings remain upstream until they have grown and are able to return to the lake later.
However, the fisheries officials said the fact that the river runs through Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, a protected area under African Parks, the fish is guaranteed of security from overfishing.
In his remarks, Scott said fisheries staff in the district has a huge task to sensitise fishing communities on a need to adhere to by-laws that govern conservation of fisheries resources such as observing closed season for fishing and use of unauthorised fish nets.
The US envoy also appreciated the good work which the Riverine Village Committees (RVC) are doing and thanked the Senior Group Village Headman Chizuma committee chairs for accepting and supporting Refresh project. The five active RVC’s are Chizuma, Mphikapika, Chenderamwano, Khonde and Mvula.
In a separate interview, Nkhotakota district fisheries officer Symon Ngwira said that government through the project, under Pact Malawi, has established the village committees along Bua River as part of co-management to restore salmon population.
He explained: “Other than curbing illegal fishing, efforts are being put in place by government and stakeholders to redesign the irrigation weir with fish ladders on Bua River to allow fish swim upstream for spawning.”
Pact Malawi chief of party Allan Brooks, who provides overarching technical and managerial stewardship, serving as the primary liaison with USAid Malawi observed during the visit that national stakeholder’s participation is critical to the realisation of Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management.
He said the weir is one obstacle which continues to block migratory fish species to swim upstream for spawning. He therefore, suggested a need to provide fish ladders and also come up with Bua River fisheries by-laws which will restrict the weir place for free fishing.
Nkhotakota Refresh technicians Victoria Hara and Andrew Salapa have since promised to scale-up outreach activities on six policy steps they have trained the RVC’s as a guide to participatory fisheries management.