Parks and Wildlife Management Authority spokesperson Caroline Washaya-Moyo confirmed the suspension, adding the decision was arrived at following wide consultations between the two countries.
“It happened after a wide consultative process with stakeholders or operators in the kapenta industry,” she said.
“This was after an outcry from them (fishermen) concerning the declining catches.
“Feedback was being given on research we had done on the Kapenta stock.
She said it was suspected that there were too many fishing rigs in the area for the available resources.
“It was explicitly said to them that this was a mere consultative process and more deliberations needed to be done with our counterparts in Zambia before such action was taken,” Washaya-Moyo said.
“Their views were being collected so that the process would not be viewed as a unilateral one.”
She said this was in line with Article 6 of the protocol on economic and technical co-operation signed by the two countries in 1999.
The protocol states that Zimbabwe was entitled to 55% and Zambia 45% control of water in the Zambezi River.
Zambia has about 830 rigs while Zimbabwe has 364 rigs operating in the Zambezi basin.
“Realistically, we did not expect Zambia to reduce its fishing effort easily. Therefore the next best step was to look at a fishing stoppage,” Washaya-Moyo said.
The bigger picture though, is that there could be a shortage of kapenta in the short term. Catches are predicted to ultimately increase if such interventions are carried out, thus, moving towards sustainable fishing.
“It is supposed to be a joint effort between Zimbabwe and Zambia and therefore the stoppage was proposed to be simultaneous in both countries.”
She said they had introduced penalties for those who flout regulations during the suspension period.
“Violators are supposed to pay $1 000 to get their impounded rig released and will be given two weeks to settle the balance. The high fine is meant to act as a deterrent or prohibit would-be fish poachers.”
Efforts to get comment from Zambian officials were fruitless.