Between a rock and a hard place: the need for and challenges to implementation of Rights Based Fisheries Management in small-scale fisheries of Southern Lake Malawi
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There has been a decline in commercially valuable fish species, especially the Chambo (Oreochromis spp.), in southern Lake Malawi. Although there might be lack of reliable and scientifically backed evidence, most experts and experienced fishers concur that productivity of most fish stocks in the area is much below par compared to their productivity about two to three decades ago. This leads to the hypotheses that the fish stocks are generally over-exploited. This trend will continue or their productivity will remain at these depressed levels unless appropriate measures are taken. This article argues that Rights Based Management (RBM) could hold the best hope for moving towards sustainable fisheries management in the southern Lake Malawi (Southeast and Southwest Arms) area while recognizing the need for a broad human rights approach for fishing communities. Even then, the implementation of the RBM approach will not be easy given the historical developmental open access management approach and general unorganized characteristics of the small-scale fisheries sector. Of note is that co-management was introduced in area in the early millennium as part of attempts to strengthen user fishing rights, local accountability and stewardship—with mixed results.