An ethical evaluation of the sustainability of the current fishing methods in the Barotse floodplains of Mongu district on the human and natural environment
The main aim of this study was to carry out an ethical evaluation of the sustainability of the illegal and destructive fishing methods used in the Zambian Barotse floodplains of Mongu district and how these fishing gears/nets and fishing methods impact on the human and natural environment. The following were the objectives of the study: (i) to investigate the most commonly used fishing gears/nets and fishing methods in the Barotse floodplains of Mongu district; (ii) to investigate the factors which led the fishermen to use the illegal fishing gears/nets and methods; (iii) to assess the impact of these methods on the human and the natural environment; and (iv) to identify mitigation measures that could be put in place to ensure the sustainability of fish stock resources for the future; (v) to make an ethical evaluation of the findings. A case study design involved qualitative research methodology with an ethical component. The primary and secondary sources were used to collect data. Primary data was gathered by the use of observation, focus group discussion and in-depth interview. In-depth interviews were carried out with 40 participants who were randomly selected, which included 10 fishermen, 10 women traders, 10 headmen and 10 fish camp chairpersons. Three key informants purposively selected were 1 induna, 1 official from Department of fisheries and 1 official from Mongu Municipal council. The total sample was therefore 43. In addition, 5 FGDS were conducted, each comprised of 10 members each who were selected by convenience sampling. Secondary data were collected from different literature taken from written reports, published researches from Mongu Municipal Council, Department of Fisheries, UNZA Library, ZEMA Library, online journals, newspaper articles and reports from internet. The theoretical ethical framework involved the Land Ethic, Utilitarianism and the Principle of the Lesser Evil. The findings of the study revealed that fish are a very important commodity as a source of nourishment, employment and income generation for the inhabitants. The commonly used fishing gears/nets are Sefa-sefa and Singoni, which are illegal and very destructive to the fish population. The use of these methods has resulted from high levels of poverty and unemployment as well as the increase in fish demand. The study also revealed that these fishing methods affect both the human and the natural environment. The Sefa-sefa and Singoni nets catch small and big fish which results in the depletion of fish. The effect on humans is that in the long run there will be no fish as a source of nourishment, employment and income generation. In the short run, however, the use of these methods ensures nutrition, income and employment to the local people. The effect on the natural environment is that Sefa-sefa nets through the bottom trawling fishing method collect both living and non-living organisms out of water, hence disturbing the aquatic system. Under ethical evaluation, whereas both Utilitarianism and the Land Ethic concluded that the use of illegal methods of fishing was not good in the long-term, such methods were nevertheless justified in the short-term for the current needs of the local inhabitants. The Principle of the Lesser Evil also justified the use of illegal methods of fishing as the lesser evil in the short-term rather than denying people basic needs for survival in view of the lack of viable alternatives in the current circumstances. The study recommended the following: (i) the need for the BRE and the government to work together to devise more sustainable methods of fishing, (ii) the need to empower the youth with skills other than those of fishing, and (iii) the need to review the management of fish stocks.