Absence of fisheries policy slowing development of fisheries sector
Lusaka, 20 September 2017: The delay in the finalization of a national policy on fisheries is hampering the sustainable exploitation of the fishery resources and stifling the growth of the fisheries sector in Zambia.
Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) is concerned that while the National Fisheries Policy is part of key requirements that need to be put in place for the fisheries sector to grow, the Policy has been in a draft form for almost a decade. The policy provides a good starting point for making the fisheries sector sustainable and influencing improved management of capture fisheries. Having a policy in place would accelerate the realisation of the progressive provisions of the Fisheries Act in addressing challenges the fisheries sector is facing such as fish depletion and achieving a robust and sustainable fisheries sector. This would create an environment where community members actively participate in the development of the sector, and drive the national economy.
Considering that the last three national development plans – the Fifth National Development Plan (FNDP), the Sixth National Development Plan (SNDP) and the recently launched Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) have prioritised fisheries development, this absence of a Fisheries Policy is to some extent unprogressive. The policy provides a framework for implementing the development plans in relation to fisheries.
The need for a National Fisheries Policy is very evident in places like Sinazongwe and Kazungula where we are working with communities to mitigate the effects of fish depletion. We are therefore baffled why such an important policy has been in draft form for almost a decade. Community members in Kazungula and Sinazongwe have highlighted that the absence of a fisheries policy is slowing the adoption of fish farming. We therefore endorse the demand by the community members that the Draft National Fisheries Policy be finalized and adopted without any further delay. A draft is just that: a draft which does not represent government policy, regardless of how progressive its provisions may be.
We have listened with great interest to pronouncements by senior government officials, including the Republican President, on the need to develop the fisheries sector. But without a fisheries policy, it would be difficult to marshal communities and other stakeholders to work together. While the number of fishers continues to grow, the productivity has taken a nosedive. While the policy may not solve all the problems in the fisheries sector, it provides a good starting point, a strong foundation for sustainable management of fisheries.
The 7NDP rightly points out that fisheries “offer great potential for diversification, gainful employment and poverty reduction”. But without a National Fisheries Policy, it is difficult to realise this potential. We have seen from our work with communities that without a national Fisheries policy, there is no strong framework for sustaining and supporting the structures involved in the sector at community level, such as Village Fisheries Management Committees. We appreciate that the sector has so far been operating based on the provisions of the national development plans, but nothing beats a national dedicated policy for sustainable management of fisheries.
It is our hope, and that of the fishing communities across Zambia, that the government will finalise the policy and start developing programmes based on it.