Disgruntled Fishermen calls for Fisheries Policy reform

Fishermen from the Zambezi valley in Zimbabwe are experiencing frustrations in acquiring fishing permits and having to pay multiple levies due to duplicated procedures from different administrative and licensing authorities. Currently, a number of laws regulate fisheries and these include; the Rural District (RDC) Act, Environmental Management Act (EMA), Water Act and Parks and Wildlife Act. These Acts are fragmented, hence the high licensing costs. In order to interface and engage different authorities responsible for administering these laws, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association in partnership with ACTIONAID convened a training meeting to capacitate commodity associations on contract monitoring in command livestock, command farming and command fishing. The ultimate goal for this training in relation to fishermen affected by high costs of business was to have them understand contents of the permits and interface the fisheries regulating authorities so that they can air their grievances. 

A critical aspect for the capacity training was that despite being rich in natural resources, the region around the Zambezi Valley has remained largely very poor and underdeveloped. The communities rely on fishing to sustain their livelihoods. One community member had this to say:

“Fishing is really important for us as it is our only source of income. We are hoping that regulations will be put in place to make it easy for us to acquire a fishing permits which are not costly.”

To some extent, the RDC Act goes some distance in regulating fisheries in certain areas such as the Zambezi Valley. Under this Act, the Council has the mandate to  establish, promote and maintain fisheries and fish farms[1]. Further, the Council facilitates the provision of permits for marketing and sale of fish. In addition, there is also the Parks and Wildlife Act which mandates the Parks and Wildlife Authority to issue to fishermen “permits to carry on business of catching and selling fish”[2]. The overlapping of these Acts means that, for fishermen to be fully recognised, they should be registered under both laws. This is marginalizing local communities from participating in fishing activities since they are already marginalised from the mainstream economic system. At the moment, only the Parks and Wildlife headquarters in Harare is issuing the perm/its. What this consequently entails is that every fishermen would need to commute to Harare to get the permit. One fisherman stated:

“We are having challenges with paying double levies to the Council and to Parks and Wildlife. Other challenges that we are also facing include conflicts with Safari operators for the fishing jurisdiction. We also do not have enough information on the contents of the permits”

Some of challenges that were raised from the deliberations included conflicts with armed Zambians who are poaching from the Zimbabwe side using fishing nets with small holes and others using chemicals which traps all the fish threatening their sustainability.

In response, the RDC outlined the main features of the CAMPFIRE system. According to the RDC, the CAMPFIRE Project is an organ within the Council. The organ generates revenue from hunting concession and used take the cash dividends to beneficiaries who would decide how to use the money. Due to misuse of funds and corruption, cash is now submitted into ward level accounts.

Pertaining to fisheries the following recommendations and suggestions were raised from the deliberations:

  • There is need to train the fisheries to understand the nature and contents of fishing permits
  • There is need for developing specific Act governing fisheries and establishment of a standalone fisheries regulatory board
  • Parks and wildlife should devolve its permit issuing services
  • There is need to address a gap in the RDC Act by advocating for a portion of RDC revenues to be remitted to the community concerned
  • There is need to engagement of Zambian authorities over Zambian poachers fishing in the Zimbabwean jurisdiction and harmonise laws between the two countries.


[1] http://www.parlzim.gov.zw/acts-list/rural-district-councils-act-29-13

[2] http://extwprlegs1.fao.org/docs/pdf/zim8942.pdf

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