BY PRAISEMORE SITHOLE
FISHING business in Binga is reportedly on the decline due to exorbitant fees for permits, as well as a drop in the fish population in the Zambezi River.
Reports reveal that the shortage of fish was caused by over-fishing on the Zambian side.
Binga is well-known for its thriving fishing business with a number of enterprising locals establishing flourishing businesses.
Fishing advocacy consultant Peter Musanka told Southern Eye that fishing business was declining in Binga.
“Kapenta (small fish) and grill net fishing is dwindling. Currently people are fishing in prohibited areas in order to get something because they are not getting anything,” Musanka said.
“This is being caused by over-fishing. You realise that Zambezi River is shared by two countries; Zambia and Zimbabwe, and on the Zambian side they do not follow regulations like what we do here.”
Musanka said fishing permits in Zambia were much cheaper than in Zimbabwe.
Fishing permits are mandatory for commercial fishermen, and they are renewable every year.
The licences are issued by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) to prevent over-fishing and aid conservation.
They cost US$1 200 yearly, and fishermen have to spend thousands of dollars constructing fishing rigs that meet government standards.
There is also a limited number of permits handed out each year, and this disproportionately benefits wealthy fishermen from the cities at the expense of communities.
Those caught fishing without a licence are fined $2 000 and risk having their boats impounded.
“Kapenta fishermen usually break the law to fish on the river mouth.
They go into shallow areas, which are prohibited as they are breeding areas for fish.
“Even if heavy penalties are imposed on them, this does not stop them from doing so. Every month several boats are apprehended,” Musanka said.
“This is a sign that kapenta fishing and grill netting is no longer viable in Zimbabwe.”
He said fishermen were also facing marketing challenges.
“We do not have a local market; people have to travel to sell fish to areas like Bulawayo, Hwange and Harare. They also face challenges such as power cuts, especially for grill natters.
“After catching fish, they are supposed to refrigerate them so that they keep fresh.
“We also do not have designated shops where people can sell their fish and buy fishing equipment in Binga.”
ZimParks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said he could not immediately comment on the issue as he was not feeling well.
Fishing has been a source of livelihood for the Binga community for generations. Despite this resource, the district has remained under-developed, with inaccessible roads, poor connectivity and inadequate infrastructure.