• Dugout canoe on Lake Malawi

    Malawi: Securing a Sustainable Future for Lake Malawi

In Brief

Location:

Salima District, Malawi

Goal:

Following a model that succeeded in neighbouring districts, this project will empower communities to protect Lake Malawi's endangered and economically important fish through Fish Conservation Committees.

Conservation Value:

Lake Malawi is the world's ninth largest freshwater lake and a biodiversity hotspot with more species of fish than any other lake in the world.  Of its approximately 1000 species, 90% are endemic.  The Lake's fish are an important food source for millions and yet three of the four species of "Chambo," the most important food fish, are critically endangered.

Threats:

Lake Malawi's fisheries have become over exploited and the response of fishermen has been to increase effort, using longer nets with smaller mesh sizes (including mosquito nets) to catch as many fish as possible.  Fish are caught before they have a chance to grow and breed and many fish are now classified as endangered or vulberable on the IUCN Red List.  The problem has been exacerbated by a lack of government funds to enforce fishing regulations.  As the Lake's fish are a key source of animal protein for the country's most vulnerable groups, this has serious nutritional implications. Declining species richness has implications for the resilience and productivity of Lake Malawi's fisheries, as well as for the overall health of the lake ecosystem. 

Actions & Results:

The project focuses on Oreochromis lidole (known locally as Chambo) but also benefits other species. By protecting breeding areas and banning fishing with mosquito nets, Fish Conservation Committees will ensure there is increased plant growth providing more protection for baby fish. Young Chambo will be able to grow larger and breed. As only larger Chambo fish are caught, more remain in the lake to breed. This will help to increase Chambo fish stocks (and other fish using the same breeding areas), improving biodiversity in the long term. The project also encourages the use of larger meshed nets to catch larger Usipa — a sardine-like fish — and Utaka.

Fishing communities will benefit in deriving greater household income from fish catches, which will result from healthier and more resilient fish stocks. This will provide positive feedback to the actions taken by the Fish Conservation Committees. Ultimately, the increased number of larger fish available in markets will provide more animal protein, benefiting many more people in Malawi.

Project Field Partner:

Ripple Africa

Cost:

US$69,528 for one year (2019-2020), beginning August 2019

Support this project

Training a fish conservation committee

In More Depth...

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