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Scientists Urge Investment In Aquaculture

Economics +1 more

MALAWI - As stocks of Malawi's prided tilapia (orechromis shiranus) fish species continue to dwindle in the country's water bodies, scientists are calling for increased investments in aquaculture to reduce fishing pressure on Lake Malawi, one of the world's fresh water bodies and the main source of the specie commonly known as Chambo.

Senior scientist at the World Fish Centre in the country's Zomba city, Dr Daniel Jamu says it is urgent that the country finds alternatives to the falling fish stocks that provide proteins to its consumers.

"You see, our water bodies have declined and are on the edge, so it is very important that we venture into aquaculture to preserve rare fish species, especially the Chambo which is the country's pride," he told The Southern Times.

A report by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) released last November warns on the need to develop early warning systems for imminent disturbances of the hydrological circle triggered by the increased precipitation and evaporation over Lake Malawi. The report warns that the climatic conditions on the lake can either result in floods or declined lake levels.

"A small increase in precipitation and evaporation ratio on Lake Malawi can result in flooding as was the case in 1979-80," says the report adding, "in contrast, a small decrease in the ratio results in the basin becoming closed as was the case between 1925 and 1937. 'Lake Malawi's water level has been declining in recent years and the lake came near to being closed at the end of 1997," it says.

Simultaneously, the supply of fish from the lake has declined from about 30, 000 tonnes a year, in the past 15 to 20 years, to 2, 000 tonnes, Research Into Use (RIU) Information Officer, Ralph Mwenenguwe reveals. Mwenenguwe says declining fish stocks are a result of population growth and over fishing, among other reasons.

In response, RIU was launched in 2008 and focuses on facilitating institutional arrangements that ensures that research outputs are put into use from where lessons are drawn.

RIU facilitates the establishment of aquaculture innovation platforms across the country by bringing together the fish value chain stakeholders to enhance innovation and address challenges in the sector.

Mr Mwenenguwe says RIU will between 2010 and 2011 distribute an estimated five million fingerings of orechromis shiranus to 1, 700 fish farmers.

"With the current average of two ponds per farmer of 400 square metres, it is expected that 1 700 fish farmers will benefit from the improved good quality fingerings," he says.

Currently 4 000 farmers are already in fish farming and own ponds in Malawi.