MAUN – The exportation of dry fish from Ngamiland to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia where exporters had secured a lucrative market has been banned by the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism.
This comes in less than two months after the opening of the fishing season on March 1.
In his address to stakeholders, the Minister for Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama explained that the fear was that should more fish be exported, there was a probability that Botswana would face a scarcity of the commodity in the near future.
He said while he fully understood that people of Ngamiland relied and benefitted from the fish trade for their livelihood, there was also need to see things the other way round.
He advised that people might as well venture into fresh fish trade as an alternative while the issue of exportation is being sorted out. Tshekedi said his ministry would engage experts to see how much fish is still is available in the lake soon.
Also speaking at the meeting was Department of Wildlife and National Parks Director Major General Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo who said that he recently sat for a meeting with President Ian Khama and the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Khathi to discuss issues of concern at Lake Ngami, which produces more fish than other water points in the region.
He said it was after the said meeting that he also met with the Commissioner of Police and the Commander of Botswana Defence Force and relayed the details of the meeting with the President, which included controlling the situation at the lake.
Through their investigations, he said they discovered that illegal fishermen still fish at the lake, most of them foreigners who do not have licenses and do not follow regulations.
He said although illegal fishermen are always apprehended and charged, they usually repeat offences, which now turns out to be wasted efforts by law enforcers. The other set-back, he said, was the acute lack of equipment to do routine patrols at the lake.
“Our boat has been re-deployed to Gweta following the recent heavy rains, but we have since brought it back it to the lake to allow our officers to continue patrolling the area.
“We usually depend on the BDF and police for assistance but it should be noted that they have equally pressing issues,” said Tiroyamodimo.
Lake Ngami Conservation Trust General Manager Galefele Maokeng noted that they had presented by-laws to the council for approval and are hopeful they would be enforceable.
He expressed disappointment that the Minister seemed to have been fed false information by his officers and stakeholders considering his concerns and the questions he posed, even though they meet for discussions almost every week.
He said the Botswana Tourism Organisation, Department of Environmental Affairs as well as the District Commissioner’s office are key people who should be advising the Minister accurately as they discuss issues from time to time.
“We are yet to develop the supply chain of fresh fish market. This means we should also develop infrastructure and have facilities such as cold storage in major centres and let Batswana benefit. We are just pleading with you Honourable Minister to suspend the ban, because as it stands now, both fishermen and buyers have accrued large stockpiles of fish to be exported. We have a moral obligation to allow these people to send their supply to the market, and so we pray that you heed our request to do that” he said.
And because they constantly provide the necessary data, he said they expect the Minister to use it to make decisions. Maokeng further pointed out that the ban had been a big blow for fishermen, 60 of whom are beneficiaries of various government schemes and were granted permission to fish at the lake.
The trust had received an allocation of 200 licences to be issued for the 2017 fishing season. A further 87 had been previously issued and were taken on board by the trust, meaning a total of 347 fishers were entitled to fish at the lake this season.