Climate change and overfishing affects Lake Malawi - GulfToday

Climate change and overfishing affects Lake Malawi

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Fishing boats are seen on the shore of the Lake Malawi at the Senga village.

An eager crowd waits for a cedarwood boat near Lake Malawi.

The crew of six deliver a single net of chambo, sardine and tiny usipa fish from the boat, just one of 72 vessels that land their catch every day on the beach at Senga Bay.

But overfishing and climate change have taken their toll.

Lack of money

Hundreds of local traders gather each morning and afternoon at Senga only to find that fish populations are falling in Lake Malawi, Africa's third largest body of freshwater.

"The fish nowadays are more expensive, because they are becoming scarce. Some children have stopped going to school because their parents can't find the money.

'No alternative to fishing'

Senga community leader John White Said says increasing gale force winds and torrential rains have made it harder for fishermen on the lake.

"Our men can't catch fish because of wind which is much stronger than before," he said, adding that the rains are increasingly unpredictable on the lake.

Environmental impact

According to USAID, the number of rainfalls incidents in the aid-dependant country is likely to decrease -- but each rainfall will be more intense, leading to droughts and floods.

On top of the environmental impact, the number of fishermen in Senga had doubled in the last 10 years due to the lack of other jobs, Said said.

"There is no alternative to fishing."

'Unsustainable fishing practices'

Traders take their purchases in buckets to makeshift reed tables to be dried, smoked, fried or boiled in preparation for the market.

"Declining fish catches are mainly due to unsustainable fishing practices," said Sosten Chiotha, a Malawian environmental science professor who works for the Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) action group.

Vulnerable economy

Chiotha said climate change was hitting Malawi with "increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events in the major ecosystems including lakes."

That leaves Malawi's agriculture-based economy sharply vulnerable to climatic events and entrenched poverty heightens pressure on the environment.

"I'm worried," he said. "In Malawi most people depend on fishing financially and as a cheap food source.

"The men have to cast their nets further and further away from the beach."

Agence France-Presse