By Makeli Phiri
It was interesting during the presidential campaigns to hear some political leaders talk of lifting the fish ban which is currently in force.
This shows a lack of understanding of this precious resource.
Zambia used to enjoy eating fish throughout the year in the past until when it experienced what I can term a population boom.
Sudden increase in population starting from the mid-80s meant an increase in fish consumption of the nation.
The CopperBelt and Lusaka in particular were the targeted markets by those who were involved in fish supplying from either the Northern Province or Luapula to the two heavy populated areas of Zambia.
Fish business thrived with small companies cropping up. In the nineties fish was becoming expensive because less of this resource was getting caught for the market in the mentioned areas, until the Government came up with the idea of giving chance to the fish to breed and this happens mostly during the rainy season.
Therefore, the activities of fish farming in Zambia have to be mentioned in order to support the replenishment of the stools by natural means, for them to reproduce.
The fish industry is a source of employment as the activities of fishing are carried out to the market where this product is disposed of to the needy consumers.
Fish farming started way back in the 1940s in this country when fish ponds were constructed in some parts of this country from which experiments of fish production was being done and when demand grew for large fish for the table, more stations were opened where more production of large fish were done.
Mostly this production of fish was for the European market of those who settled in this country. However, in the 1950s it was thought that Africans can also be Incorperated in fish production especially those who lived by the large water bodies and rivers.
These would catch fish and sell to some businessmen who then would take the fish to where the money was available to purchase this commodity.
They were even taught how to produce fish in fish ponds such as in Mansa, Kasama, Mpika, Senga Hill and other areas within the country.
Fish ponds were an introduction to fish farming fish were now being grown in these established ponds it could easily be cropped as opposed to going into large water bodies with all the risks involved.
Fishing has for many years been an important economic activity for people who live near permanent rivers and other water bodies in Zambia and for this activity to continue fish must be given a period for it to reproduce instead of scooping everything including the smallest of the fish. Then what would the future hold.
Why should fish be protected by the Government? Well, it is the cheapest source of protein for the majority of the people equally it is the source of vitamins and minerals for the human body.
Fishing is a source of employment as already mentioned and is a source of income for many families living near rivers, lakes and dams. Fish processing factories also provide employment in towns where such facilities are found.
Because of what has been highlighted above the Government has a duty to protect this resource from being depleted hence, the annual fish ban from December to end of February.
This is to give time to the fish to multiply. If politicians understand this scenario then the call to lift the fish ban would be the thing of the past.
People involved in fish farming know that it is important to give chance to those involved in research so that better fish farming method can be employed .
Those breeding fish for storing should do their best. However, a word of caution; whatever method of rearing fish is adapted other types of fish should never be introduced in these fish ponds.
Fish like catfish and bukabuka are no good.
These are predators and would end up eating the fish in the pond meant for business.
Those who have taken up fish farming enjoy good money during the off season because they are not affected by the fish ban imposed by the Government. So if we can have many people doing fish farming then the price of fish during the ban period would be affordable unlike the way it is now.
The fishing industry is a sleeping which can earn foreign exchange for the country.
The demand for tropical fish in the world puts Zambia in a very conducive and appropriate position to rise to the challenge. Hence, Zambia should maintain the annual fish ban that takes place yearly.
This article I believe gives food for thought for those who think the annual fish ban is a farm of denying the people the income and other necessities. To the contrary this is to the benefit of the nation.
In future the Government should teach or train the people the correct methods of fish farming as well as the type of equipment to use when harvesting.
This is important because fish production is a must for this country.
To enhance the fish industry in Zambia, the Government upgrade into the development of roads in the rural areas especially in fish farming areas near natural water bodies such as Kariba, Lake Tanganyika, Mweru and along our perennial rivers such as Zambezi, Kafue, and Chambeshi etc.
Equally make the factory manufactured feed for those with fish ponds affordable.
There is also need to have extensive efforts to bridge the beginners in this industry. Research should also be encouraged and supported for this industry that is coming up with sustainable ideas that would take the industry forward.
As a nation let us look after this natural resource as it is food for the nation, supplying proteins, vitamins and required minerals for human.
Fish farming is a source of family income as well as a source of employment.
The country would benefit a lot when full time export of this commodity would blossom. Yes this is our fish,
Zambian fish. Let us all look after it.