• Kariba fisheries produce between 60 - 70 percent of Zimbabwe's total fish output
  • Drop in water levels affecting the fish industry which could have helped ease food inflation
  • Government intervention at Lake Kariba key


Kariba - Fishing cooperatives and private fishers report an extraordinary drop in fish catches on the renowned Lake Kariba amid declining water levels. Although many have focused on how the country's power woes have been impacted by Lake Kariba's low water levels, it has to be noted that Kariba fisheries produce between 60 - 70 percent of Zimbabwe's total fish output and hence play a critical part in the nation's food security. The aquaculture industry is nascent, and Lake Harvest Aquaculture is the only significant player. It offers the lake's greatest opportunity for future fish production.

Zimbabwe just topped the list for food inflation with a 351% spike, and the situation at the Kariba dam would only exacerbate the country's critical food security concerns. Low-income workers are most affected by food inflation since they spend a big portion of their income on food, and kapenta is a cheap source of protein for most people in the nation.

Food inflation has been aggravated by food imports, and in the past, the government has tried to protect consumers from irrational price hikes by deferring customs duties on basic goods. On November 14th, the Suspension of Duty on Basic Commodities came to an end, and the government made it clear that it would not be extended. As a result, more needs to be done locally to try to stem the spiraling price increases, and the situation at Lake Kariba poses more problems than it does suitable solutions.

Water levels have dropped to extremely unsettling levels, particularly in the fishing and energy sectors. Both the Kariba North Electricity Station (on the Zambian side) and the Kariba South Power Station (on the Zimbabwean side) have seen decreased power production as a result of the low water levels at the Kariba dam. Zimbabwe is already suffering the effects of the more than 19 hours a day of daily power outages that have struck residential areas. Zambia has suggested a 6-hour load-shedding plan beginning on December 15th, in addition to increasing power production. Power interruptions will have a significant impact on the production levels from various sectors of the nation intended to curb out-of-control food inflation.

Because fishing cooperatives and private fishermen are not permitted to fish in all places less than 20 meters deep, the fishing surface area has shrunk, potentially causing fish depletion because boats will be concentrated in a few areas.

Fishermen are expected to fish two kilometers inland from the shoreline in regions that used to yield a lot of fish for the industry but now lack water or are deemed shallow ground. Due to the low water levels, the fishing area is now too confined, and many businesses are closing. Due to the costs, many boats that are currently stranded in the mud are not being removed. The government's intervention is critical, but the problem is that three ministries compete for control of the Kariba Dam.

Fishing is regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture in a water body designated as a recreational park and is regulated by the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism, and Hospitality Water Climate. The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), which is under the Ministry of Power Development and Energy, is responsible for managing, operating, and maintaining the Kariba Complex. Sometimes the confusion caused by these overlapping roles hinders decision-making. For the Kariba Dam's concerns to be managed and dealt with in unity, the current situation there should serve as a proper springboard and allow authorities to put in place a vivid structure to govern the affairs at Lake Kariba.

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority ceased issuing fishing licenses in 2020 to stop the overfishing of fish species, notably kapenta, which is a key component of the indigenous cuisine. The US$1,200 per year fishing permits are now burdensome for many, as catches have decreased, yet landlord fishermen charge up to three times what ZPWMA charges. In this regard, the outright revocation and re-allocation of some fishing licenses should be considered. Revocation of licenses for persistent violators will be a deterrent, especially in light of the requirement to limit the number of fishing rigs to sustainable levels.

According to sources, the maximum number of fishing rigs permitted in Lake Kariba is 500. Out of this, 275 should operate on the Zimbabwean side and 225 on the Zambian side, however, the lake now has more than 1,500 fishing boats anchored there. To salvage the dying fish industry at Lake Kariba, proper legislation and reorganization are currently of the utmost importance.

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