by AMOS ZULU
The World Fish Migration Day 2014 (WFMD) is a one day global initiative, with local events worldwide. It will be an annual event set aside to commemorate the migration of fish in our rivers, lakes and oceans.
It is meant to improve the publics’ understanding of the importance of open rivers and migratory fish. Fish migration is very important in maintaining the health and productivity of rivers, lakes and other aquatic ecosystems. This year’s theme of the WFMD is “Connecting Fish, Rivers and People”
Many fish species migrate for various reasons that include feeding, reproduction, refuge and general survival. If these species are prevented from migrating, their populations significantly reduce and they sometimes die out. This has already happened with many species in different places around the world.
In the Western, Southern, Luapula and Northern Provinces of Zambia, local people rely on some migratory fish species for their livelihoods. These species, which need to migrate at one stage during their life cycles, include the Tigerfish (Hydrocynus vitattus and Hydrocynus goliath), Buka fish (Lates stappersi), Freshwater Eels (Anguilla species), Labeos (Labeo species) and Kapenta (Stolothrissa tanganicae).
In recent years, some fishing practices and some infrastructure developments on and along our rivers and lakes have posed threats to the continued existence of the migratory fish species including the ones mentioned above. These developments include construction of weirs, dams and sluices across the rivers and streams around the country. These create barriers to fish migration and therefore have the potential to affect population sizes of migrating fish species. Any reductions in stock sizes of migrating fish species will have devastating effects on the lives of local people in the affected areas.
The weirs, dams and sluices which are built for water management, irrigation, hydro-electric power and land drainage are very important infrastructural developments which enhance economic growth. However, mitigation measures should be put in place to ensure that these structures facilitate the migration of the affected fish species.
On 24th May 2014, Zambia joins the rest of the world to celebrate the World Fish Migration Day.
One week prior to this important day, the Department of Fisheries (DoF), in collaboration with the University of Zambia (UNZA), the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) and the Wanningen Water Consult will be conducting public awareness campaigns to highlight the importance of open rivers and fish migration in the context of the Zambia. All concerned Zambians are invited to participate in this important event. Watch the local media and UNZA and DoF websites for details. - NAIS