Fishermen who catch the small fish known as “kapenta” (the local name for the Lake Tanganyika sardine), in Cahora Bassa lake, in the central Mozambican province of Tete, have denounced the smuggling of the catch to neighbouring countries, this is according to media reports.
Besides the smuggling, there are reports of excessive use of harmful fishing gear which threatens kapenta with extinction. The high demand for the small fish has led to an increase of fishermen and buyers from countries such as Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo at the dam.
In the dead of night, resorting to small wooden vessels, the smugglers paddle along the Zambezi from Zumbu district, where the river enters Mozambique until they reach the lake, where they then start their unlawful activities.
Zumbu district Administrator, Lucas Muidinngui, said the smuggling of kapenta has a harmful impact on the local economy, but the district has no capacity to halt the movement of smugglers, especially because they chose to move at night.
The head of the Fisheries Department in Tete, Piedade Malizane, confirmed the smuggling and added that it also includes dried tilapia, locally known as “chicoa”, which is very much sought after by businessmen from the involved countries.
“The smuggling of kapenta and tilapia is not only harmful to the economy of the province but also of the country in general. There is no human and material capacity to ensure a full inspection of the product, especially in Zumbu and Maravia districts, which lead to Zimbabwe and Zambia,” Piedade said.
Between January and October 2021, Tete exported legally 124,000 tonnes of kapenta to South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and DR Congo which generated almost US$257,000 in revenue.