The board of Trustees of Lake Ngami, which was set up to oversee fishing activities in the lake, is scheduled to visit Namibia and benchmark on sustainable fishing by communities in that country.
This was disclosed by the Chief Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of Environment , Wildlife and Tourism Alice Mmolawa in an interview with Sunday Standard.
She said the visit is intended to give the board members information on how they can best run their board. Responding to a question on why the fishing season was stopped in Lake Ngami and Lake Xai, Mmolawa said the commercialized nature of fishery in the lakes resulted in mass convergence of fishers from all over the region, all with a hope of making profits. The ban angered fishermen and buyers, as they even threatened to proceed and start fishing despite the ban.
Mm0olawa further explained that the convergence led to massive squatting of people in fishing camps around the lakes.
“This culminated in unprecedented littering and pollution of the environment around the lake and the lake itself. Others even engaged in illegal fishing,” she said.
Consequently, other illegal activities such as sale of alcohol and prohibited drugs occurred. The fishing activities led to other activities such as fish marketing, water pollution, vending and illegal transport of fish from camps to the Kasumberesa fish market in Zambia and DRC, which further exacerbated the littering and squatting problem.
To address the problems, Mmolawa said a suspension in fishing was initiated to allow for a holistic approach to address the challenges that involved all stakeholders. This included the community and its leadership, Local authorities, Department of Waste Management and Pollution Control, Councils (By-law), Department of Tourism, Botswana Tourism Organization, Botswana Police, Immigration, Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) etc.
As a result of their intervention, patrols are being conducted to make sure there is presence of law enforcement officers within the lakes, which will curb illegal fishing. The patrols, said Mmolawa, are also intended to ensure compliance with legislation and to curb practices that may endanger sustenance of the fish stocks. Currently, illegal unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing practices have significantly been reduced, and the intervention has even led to formation of the Lake Ngami Conservation Trust (LNCT) which will oversee the monitoring of natural resources around and within Lake Ngami, and cater for fishermen camping and sanitation facilities amongst others.
The local authorities of the villages surrounding Lake Ngami (Toteng, Legotlhwana, Sehitwa, Kareng, Bodibeng and Bothatogo), being the custodians of the Lake, have the responsibility and authority of ensuring that their Lake is utilized in a more responsible manner.