Climate, fish, and people in Zambezian fisheries, with emphasis on a natural flood cycle in the ephemeral Lake Liambezi

Publication Year:

Northern Namibia is fed by the Kavango, the Kwando, and the Zambezi Rivers, which fl ow from Angola and Zambia. Flows fluctuate in both the short and long terms as a result of climate fluctuations, with major impacts on fish stocks. Rural communities' fishery-dependent livelihoods are thus vulnerable to impacts of climate change, illustrated here by changes in the fish and fisheries of the ephemeral Lake Liambezi over a filling, stabilisation, and recession cycle between 2009 and 2016. The fish population of the lake, after filling from the Zambezi in 2009, was initially dominated by small cyprinids, mainly Enteromius paludinosus, and later by other small species, notably Brycinus lateralis. A lucrative fishery developed for more valuable large cichlids that became well established from 2010. The establishment of the fishery led to an influx of migrant fishers and an export fish trade to Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lakeside communities organised fisheries committees to address management issues, and the fishery remained productive until a natural stock collapse when the lake went into recession in 2016. This followed years of low river fl ow that resulted in negligible inflow to the lake after 2011. In contrast to the productive Liambezi fishery, other Zambezian riverine fisheries experienced economic collapse over the same period due to rapid and uncontrolled increase in destructive fishing methods that communities appeared powerless to prevent. Management recommendations from the project's research results have now been implemented by the government and adopted by some communities, but with the likelihood of lower flood levels in future as a result of climate change, the situation remains critical. Developing proactive management approaches to maximise yields from ephemeral water bodies, while mitigating against excessive exploitation in perennial rivers, is a major challenge.

Publication Title:

Climate change and adaptive land management in southern Africa - assessments, changes, challenges, and solutions

Göttingen and Windhoek
Revermann R, Krewenka KM, Schmiedel U, Olwoch JM, Helmschrot J, Jürgens N
Klaus Hess Publishers
Series Title:
Biodiversity and Ecology
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Book or Magazine Section

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