Walter Nyamukondiwa Kariba Bureau
OPERATORS in the kapenta fishing industry have expressed concern at the growing cases of middlemen conniving with crews to buy kapenta in the lake before they are surrendered to them.
This comes as operators complain of a progressive decline in catches which they say is threatening the future viability of the industry and throw some players out of business.
Drying of the kapenta is done at some islands in the lake after crews trade off with the buyers in transactions that are not known to the operators.
Some are exchanging the kapenta with groceries. Most operators are barely managing to catch more than two trays per boat each night.
However, some operators are reporting higher catches to the chagrin of others who think they are supplementing with catches from other boats.
Indigenous Kapenta Producers Association member Mr Garikai Stande said the development has led to some fishermen resorting to fishing in breeding and prohibited areas as they seek to boost their catch.
“It is now rampant. Catches are very low so these buyers are resorting to buying from other operators. This again pushes the fishermen to fish in prohibited areas for them to get a better catch and also have enough to sell to these culprits,” said Mr Stande.
“So it affects the industry as a whole. The bona fide operator will be affected most when the rig (boat) is caught with the Law enforcers. Because the real perpetrator gets away with lenient punishment.”
It is alleged that the fishermen who remain with the boats in the afternoon before they are launched for fishing at night are the ones who are selling the kapenta to buyers.
Sometimes they take the boats to fishing camps where the buyers will be waiting. The buyers are circumventing costs associated with running a boat including fuel, oils, consumables and labour.
A boat needs at least 20 litres of diesel to operate in Basin 5 which near is Kariba Town and more for the other four basins.
Operators have called on law enforcement agencies including Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) to monitor the operations of unscrupulous traders.
The operators have fishing permits which allow them to fish in the lake and those intending to buy the fish are expected to have buying permits.
One observer said buying or selling fish in the lake was a criminal offence and people should be arrested and brought to book for the committing the crime.
Others have called on operators to educate fishermen they employ about the dangers of buying and selling fish in the lake in violation of conditions of issue for the permits.