Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Fish stock decline in the Okavango: fact or fiction?
In this article, the authors, K.Mosepele, B.Mosepele and T.Bokhutlo critically examine whether the conflicts reported nationally and internationally between the local fishermen in the Okavango panhandle and tourists (i.e. sport fishers) who come to the Delta for fishing are real and whether the fish population is really declining. Certain elements come to play in explaining what actually happens in the fishing activities. Because of the different fisher groups and their different value systems, the delta’s fishery is characterised by conflict. Typically the commercial fishers with their effective fishing equipment are accused by sport fishers of over-exploitation because of their inability to catch trophy sized fish. However, in their defence, commercial fishers’ claim that this failure by sport fishers to catch trophy size fish is caused by their lack of traditional ecological knowledge. The authors further explain that low fish production during low flood years means less fish biomass is available to all categories of fishers and this is often misinterpreted as over-exploitation. Secondly, because of poorly defined user rights, the same areas are used by different fisher groups –another clear source of conflict that end up competing for fishing space. On the issue of the decline in fish population, the authors opine that indicators on the ground show that this is not the case as research has revealed that compared to other African freshwater fisheries, the Delta’s fishery is relatively under exploited and fishing can still be increased without any fear of over-exploitation. This article is available in the latest Peolwane magazine, in the HOORC Library.