Conservation Efforts in Elephant Marsh Help Communities Combat Illegal Fishing
Fishermen in Elephant Marsh Using Mosquito Nets for Fishing, Harming Fish Population, writes Cornelius Lupenga.
Malawi-Fishermen in the Elephant Marsh continue to use mosquito nets to catch fish, leading to the catching of very young and immature fish and destroying the breeding process of the fish species, writes Cornelius Lupenga.
Besides using illegal fishing gear, the fishermen living along and in the marsh are also involved in the killing of other aquatic life such as crocodiles, hippopotami, and birds found in the Elephant Marsh wetlands area.
The Shire Valley Transformation Programme (SVTP), through its component, the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), is training the communities on the conservation and management of the Elephant Marsh, which covers an area of 61,556 hectares.
The marsh stretches from Phokera in Nsanje to Kamuzu Bridge in Chikwawa and is one of the world's recognized areas that was declared a Ramsar Site in 1971.
The training on the conservation and management of the Elephant Marsh has led to the formation of the Community Conservation Area-CCA committees, Beach Village Committees-BVC, and Tour Guides who are now leading in the conservation and management of the marsh.
Bobo Robert, the chairperson for the CCA committee, said, "In the past, the communities were not aware of how to conserve the wetlands area, but through the training, they are in a better position to manage the conservation of the area."
He further noted that the locals were entering the wetlands without a care, which ended up destroying the environment.
The Chairperson of the BVC, Gera Nasho, added that the by-laws, which were formulated with the help of GEF, have assisted them in working effectively in dealing with the fishermen.
Nasho said, "The committee was weak without the by-laws as people were not adhering to them."
He added that recently, his committee managed to seize mosquito nets used by some fishermen found plying their activities in the marsh.
Finias Faela, one of the trained tour guides, said there is a need for the Ministry of Tourism to invest more in the Elephant Marsh wetlands area to attract more tourists.
He said, "There are many interesting places in the elephant marsh, such as birds, crocodiles, and hippopotamuses, which can attract tourists to visit the area, thereby bringing in much-needed revenue."
Fisheries Assistant at Bangula Fisheries Office, Foster Kuloweka, concurred with the BVC, saying the seized mosquito nets were brought before his office for disposal.
However, he bemoaned the fact that some fishermen are still not adhering to the rules and regulations in their fishing activities in the area.
Conservation efforts in Elephant Marsh have shown positive results, with the formation of committees, the formulation of by-laws, and the seizure of illegal fishing gear.
With continued efforts, the communities living in and around the marsh can effectively combat illegal fishing practices and preserve the ecosystem for future generations.