Jakotsha Community Trust, the custodians of NG 24 concession in southern part of the Okavango Delta is facing a serious challenge of dealing with illegal fishing in the area. The illegal fishermen who take advantage of the thick reeds and deep swamps within the concession to cover their acts, have evaded apprehension, while causing damage to the environment.
The trust is made of Etsha 1 to 13, Jao, and Ikoga villages. Since it is a controlled area, the villages have resource user rights hence activities in the area are managed by the trust and any form of revenue made from the area should benefit the communities instead of individuals.
Trust Manager Kandondi Kandondi revealed that usually locals camp illegally within the concession and harvest fish which they then dry and sell to foreigners for cash or barter trade.
He expressed concerned that though the locals try to empower themselves through the activity, they however pose an environmental hazard as they are practicing large scale uncontrolled fishing.
As a control measure, Kandondi indicated that since the area is not easily accessible by car and boat they are currently unblocking water channels to allow access to the area for their escort guides to monitor the area.
“We have also come up with an initiative to allow fishing permits to a limited number of individuals, the plan is currently at an initial stage and I cannot go further on how the permits will be offered, however it will only apply to beneficiary villages,” Kandondi told this publication.
In an interview, a local illegal fisherman argued that they are trying to make ends meet since majority of them are unemployed. “We are aware of the consequences that come with illegal fishing but we all need to eat and survive regardless of it all, “the fisherman said.
He revealed that they sell dried fish to Zambians at P5 each, a price which he said forces them to catch more fish in order to make more money. He admitted that they sometimes get food items and clothes from Zambians in exchange for dried fish.
“After stock piling the fish we sell it to them and then they export it to Zambia where they also resell the fish,” the fisherman revealed.
The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) could not be reached for a comment. However, recently during a Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) forum, the departmet’s Ngamiland Regional Director Modiri Mogopa raised concerns about rampant illegal fishing activities taking place in Ngamiland. He however did not state any efforts made by the department to combat the situation.