The Zambezi River and its tributaries are critical habitat for freshwater fishes, and are home to species of conservation, economic and cultural significance. However, along the length of the Zambezi, fish are threatened by human activities. Despite the importance of the many freshwater fishes found in the Zambezi, the state of their populations are not well known.
To date there has been little or no concerted effort to monitor the Lower Zambezi fisheries, so little is known of the ecology and population status of fishes in the Lower Zambezi. As one of Africa’s great wilderness areas, the stretch of the Zambezi flowing between Lakes Kariba and Cahora Bassa is a prime tourist destination with a particular focus on game fishing, centered around species such as tiger fish and vundu. The tigerfish is a key predator in the Zambezi, and is of cultural and economic significance for local fisheries as well as being one of the most sought after freshwater angling fishes in Africa. Recreational fishing presents a valuable means of collecting data that can contribute towards fish conservation.
The Lower Zambezi Catch & Release Initiative (LZCRI) is an independent programme, set up to encourage sustainable fishing practice to ensure that our enjoyment of the area and its resources can continue in perpetuity. This vision of LZCRI is set up around three central tenets:
Respect • Record • Release
Respect – Instil in anglers an ethic of respect for their quarry and the environment in which they fish
Record – Instil a sense of ownership and participation, where anglers themselves contribute towards evidence-based management of their fishery by recording and submitting data on the fish that they catch
Release – Instil a strong catch-and-release ethic amongst recreational anglers, where best-practice based on the latest scientific evidence is followed to ensure minimal impact and the health and wellbeing of game-fish and their populations on the Lower Zambezi
Following this vision, the LZCRI aims to:
- Inform and educate anglers about fish conservation, catch-and-release, best angling practice and the state of the fisheries on the Zambezi River
- Encourage ethical and responsible angling among the fishing community on the Zambezi River
- Enable anglers to record and submit catch data through training and the development of using innovative tools and technology
- Collect, verify and analyse data that contribute to effective, evidence-based management of fisheries on the Zambezi River
Achieving these goals relies on participation from tourism operators and recreational anglers who rely on the natural resources of the Zambezi for their business and their enjoyment. As responsible recreational anglers it is our responsibility to ensure that our activities do not damage either the environment in which we fish or the populations of fish on which our sport depends.
One way of minimizing the impact of sport fishing is to reduce fishing off-take by releasing rather than keeping the fish. Catch-and-release angling has been widely recognized as an environmentally friendly way of fishing and has been adopted around the world as a conservation measure for many protected areas.
However, even catch-and-release fishing is not without impacts and in order to remain effective as a conservation measure it needs to be carefully managed. Proper management requires information if it is to be able to adapt to changing conditions and implement sound decisions. Evidence-based management requires a good set of baseline data as well as a steady flow of up-to-date monitoring data if managers are going to react to changes in the resource under management and make the right decisions based upon the evidence at hand. By keeping and submitting catch data, recreational anglers, practicing good catch-and-release fishing can make a meaningful contribution towards the conservation and management of the resources upon which they depend to enjoy their sport.
Through the LZCRI we hope that anglers will be able to gain the knowledge and tools to enable them to make this contribution so that we can all continue to enjoy great fishing on the Zambezi for years to come.
To get involved, contact Sven Vrdoljak on +26097 486 1752 or send an email to find out what we do and how you can contribute.
The LZCRI is supported by: