A fisheries biologist at the Okavango Research Institute (ORI) in Maun, Keta Mosepele, has advised government to develop a fisheries policy so that the full benefits of the sector are realised. Mosepele said government needs to develop a policy than to depend on outdated regulations to address the current problems in the fisheries sector. “These regulations are set to address the perceived symptoms than to address the real problem in this sector. Therefore, government needs to get to the root cause of the problem. We have to identify the real problem in the sector. What are we managing these resources for and who is benefiting,” he said.
He said the decision by the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism to suspend the Fish Protection Regulatory, Statutory Instrument No. 16 of 2016 and to resort to the 2008 regulations shows that government has failed to address concerns in the sector. Mosepele observed that problems in the fisheries industry will persist until government comes up with a solution to deal with the challenges once and for all by developing a national fisheries policy. “Recently government suspended new regulations after an outcry from stakeholders and resorted to the old one, what was guiding government to resort to the old ones?” he asked, accusing government of being blindsided when dealing with fisheries issues.
He said problems persist at Lake Ngami because government is using wildlife policies to regulate the fish industry, using anti-poaching laws and setting up patrol teams made up of Botswana Defence Force (BDF) slodiers, Botswana Police and Wildlife officers. “You cannot manage fish like we are controlling wildlife but the government have that mentality”, he said. Mosepele also criticized the decision to suspend fishing activities at Lake Ngami saying govt was ill advised because good management of natural resources is what is needed instead of a total ban. He said the ban has had a negative impact on the socio economically marginalized groups of the Ngamiland district, who particularly depend on fishing for sustenance.“What has government achieved with the ban, nothing. It appears that bureaucrats do not value expertise here in ORI to come and seek advice," he said.
About the new regulations, Mosepele said the decision to increase charges for a permit from P200 to P500 while reducing validity period from three years to 10 months is an indication that government wants to kill the fisheries businesses. He said only a few can afford the exorbitant amount charged, which will exclude a lot of people since commercial fishing is in its infancy in Botswana compared to other countries. The chairman of Lake Ngami Cooperative Society Bareetsi Bogaisang also decried they are never consulted on the new regulations. Bogaisang said there are some licenses that have expired and they were not renewed. He also noted these regulations come as threat to them and a lot of people were not even aware of them. He also raised concern that for them at Lake Ngami they have not bothered to renew permits because the government has extended the ban with another year at the lake. Loago Mukunki of Lake Ngami fishermen Association also shared the same sentiments. He expressed concern that the new regulations have caused confusion and panic in the region. He also blamed the department of wildlife for not consulting them.“This has brought confusion among fishermen and the department is doing nothing about it,” he said.