- Malawi Seeks CANADA'S Help to Unravel Mystery Fish
Salima, Malawi (PANA) (Panafrican News Agency, October 18, 1999) -
Malawi fisheries officials have sought Canadian expertise to explain the
mysterious massive deaths of fish in Lake Malawi which has been threatening the
country's fish industry.
Shaibu Mapila, director of fisheries, said samples of the dead fish were sent to a
Canadian laboratory to find out whether it was poison or just unfriendly weather
that has been killing the fish.
"We have working relationship with the Canadians so we sent samples of the
dead fish immediately we started recording these massive deaths," he told
Mapila said since the last week of September, about eight kilogrammes of dead
fish were being collected daily per kilometre of coastline, which adds up to 6.5
tonnes of dead fish in a day.
He added that taking into consideration other dead fish that remained
unaccounted for "we can be talking about 33 tonnes of fish dying within 24
He described this as disastrous but manageable since the lake, Africa's third
biggest, and one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world, has a lot of fish.
Mpila expert said preliminary results of the research in the unprecedented deaths
pointed at changes in weather patterns.
He said the advent of El Nino and its "angry cousin" La Nina during the months
of August, September and October, which are usually very hot, have been
uncharacteristically cool and this disturbed the life cycle of blue and green algae
under the water.
The change of weather killed off some of the algae under water which in turn
emitted toxic substances which went on to kill the fish. However, it was only
small fish, like red herring and spawns (baby fish), that were affected.
Meanwhile, at the Senga Bay in the central district of Salima, Lackson Chale,
who has been fishing for over 40 years, said he woke up one dawn to check on
his net only to stumble over mounds of fish.
"There was fish, fish everywhere. At first I thought a fishing boat had dropped
off the fish," he explained.
Chale said he was surprised to discover that he was not the only one who had
stumbled over "manna from heaven."
He noted that since the hostile weather was making fishing difficult, villagers
around the coastline collected as many fish as possible and ate them.
"The message from fisheries that we should not eat the fish came a bit too late,"
However, the hotel industry has taken a knock from the under water disaster.
Since the first massive fish deaths were recorded, fish has been disappearing
from the menu in most resort centres.
"Tourists are afraid to order fish since they are not sure what is killing the fish," a
cook at Livingstonia Beach Hotel said.
But Mapila said the fish deaths have started subsiding although pockets of fish
washed up the beach every now and then.