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PANOS expresses worry over delays to finalise fisheries policy

PANOS Southern Africa says delay in the finalisation of a national policy on fisheries is hampering sustainable exploitation of the resource and stifling growth of the sector in Zambia. In a statement, Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) executive director Lilian Saka Kiefer expressed concern that while the national fisheries policy was part of key requirements needed to be in place for the fisheries sector to grow, it had 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,” Kiefer stated. “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.”

She stated that the last three national development plans – the Fifth, Sixth and the recently launched Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) – prioritised fisheries development but the absence of a fisheries policy was to some extent unprogressive.

Kiefer argued that the policy provides a framework for implementing fisheries development plans.

“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,”

she stated.

“We therefore endorse the demand by the community members that the draft National Fisheries Policy be finalised and adopted without any further delay. A draft is just that: it does not represent government policy, regardless of how progressive its provisions may be.”

Kiefer stated that it had listened with great interest to pronouncements by senior government officials, including President Edgar Lungu, on the need to develop the fisheries sector.

“But without a fisheries policy, it will 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,”

she stated.

Kiefer stated that 7NDP rightly pointed 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,” stated Kiefer, who hoped the Zambian government would finalise the policy and start developing programmes based on it.

“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.”

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