Experts in fisheries and aquaculture sector say Malawi is one of the countries in the sub-Saharan region with huge prospects of developing economically through fish trade.
Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) fisheries technical adviser Motseki Hlatshwayo said countries such as Malawi have huge fresh water bodies suitable for aquaculture, but such resources are underutilised.
He said this during the Sixth Meeting of the Sadc Aquaculture Working Group and the Second Sadc Worldfish, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and East African Community (EAC) Platform for Genetics and Biodiversity Management in Aquaculture in Lilongwe this week.
Hlatshwayo observed that water bodies such as Lake Malawi harbour the best fish species which are on demand in the region, but there is minimal benefit economically.
“If you look at the fish species that Malawi has and the demand those species have on the regional market, you will appreciate that if well developed and managed, the fisheries sector can boost Malawi’s economy,” he said.
Worldfish country director Sloans Chimatiro advised countries looking forward to greater fish market benefits to improve on multiplication of quality fish seeds and sustainable fish feed supply.
“The first stage of a successful industry is quality and adequate inputs. So, if we are talking of capitalising on the promising fish market, we need to look at the supply of quality fish feed and sustainable supply of fish feed,” he said.
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development chief director Yanira Ntupanyama said the country’s fisheries sector is crippled by overfishing, environmental degradation and fish farmers’ poor investment capacity.
“The problem is that we rely mostly on Lake Malawi and Lake Chirwa for fishing instead of investing in fish farming. This leads to overfishing as such, most species have depreciated in numbers,” she said.
Ntupanyama said low supply of quality fingerings, high cost of fish feed and a poor coordinated fish market are among the challenges that are pulling down the progress of the fish market both locally and internationally.
Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) vice-chancellor George Kanyama Phiri said the university, with support from Worldfish, is promoting research on the fish trade activities in the country.
He said the research being done by students at different academic levels is to find out how fish is traded between Malawi and neighbouring countries as well as the challenges and opportunities the country is missing through such activities.
“We know that with the huge demand for fish out there, some illegal international fish trade is taking place,” he said. n