River-fishery in crisis

90% decrease in fish in Zambezi, Kwando and Okavango

Elvira Hattingh – Research indicated that the number of fish in the Zambezi -, Kwando- and Okavango Rivers have decreased with up to 90% and stated that Namibia’s fish resources within the rivers are experiencing a serious crisis.

The causes of this crisis include the catching of fish using monofilament- and gill nets, the lack of capacity to police the 4 000km2 area and the profit driven export market that has developed in the Congo.

According to informed sources, the above mentioned areas are experiencing an influx of migrating fisherman, some of which are contracted by Congolese businessmen who pay these fishermen to catch and export the fish on their behalf.

Image: Illegal Fishing Activities in Namibia

Mr Strijs Coertzen, an enthusiastic fisherman of the Nwanyi-angling club, has lived in the Zambezi Region for 26 years and notes the daily occurrences on the river. He says that the biggest problem is a total lack of policing, which is aggravated by the fact that these rivers serve as borders.

“Most of the poaching takes place toward Zambia. Fish exportation is a flourishing business and one dried catfish can be sold for up to N$100.00,” said Coertzen.

Image: Illegal Fishing Activities in Namibia

Mr Denis Tweddle, the project coordinator for the Namibia Nature Fund (NNF) and the European Union’s Kavongo-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KaZa)’s community-conservation fishery project, has been working on these rivers for seven years, and says that customs on the borders attempt to control the exports.

“The NNF monitors the amount of freshwater fish that is exported every two days. We cannot give actual comments on the amount of exports that take place without keeping exact records thereof.”

Tweddle says that on the Kalabo fish-market in Zambia tiny tigerfish, Clarias, Syndontis and other fish from the Cichlids-family, amongst others, can be purchased.

Image: Illegal Fishing Activities in Namibia

“This correlates with the species and sizes of the fish that are being caught in the Zambezi-system and is an indication of a fishing industry is quickly being depleted. Fishermen are being forced to sell the fish that they caught at a low price because of the small sizes,” he said.

Image: Illegal Fishing Activities in Namibia


Coertzen also explained that the tourism industry is suffering due to the fact that the number of fish has declined to drastically.

“With regards to our fishing club’s Zambezi Classic International Angling Competition, three years ago somewhat 75 teams entered the competition and on average 2.9 fish were caught, per person, per day. During the most recent competition, 44 teams entered and an average of 1.2 fish were caught per person.

Image: Theron De Wit

Image: Theron De Wit

This was one of the biggest freshwater fishing competitions in Africa and produced a financial income for the region.”

Anglers on the Facebook-group Illegal Fishing Activities in Namibia agree. Mr Louw Pretorius says he is disappointed with the way this situation has been handled.

“In the past two years I have been there three times. My last visit was in September this year and daily angling-fieldtrips for almost two weeks offered no catches. This followed great expenses, the hiring of a boat, accommodation and fuel. It isn’t worth it anymore,” he said.


Tweddle explained that other problems that lead to the drastic decline is fish numbers, including the exponential growth of the communities and therefore the amount of fisherman. He also says that the development of monofilament nets has led to the destruction of the fisheries in the Zambezi Region.

Image: Illegal Fishing Activities in Namibia

“The true destruction took place between 2010 and 2012. The new fishing nets are about three times more effective than their predecessors, but even with these new nets up to seven times fewer fish are caught per net.

“All proof indicates that only 5% to 10% of the fish that were in the rivers in 2010 are left.

“The increased use of gill nets, made from a cotton material, makes the situation worse,” says Tweddle.

Image: Illegal Fishing Activities in Namibia

According to him the old nets are discarded in the rivers and fish, crocodile, snakes and birds get stuck and die because of them.

Image: Mauro Rosa

Image: Mauro Rosa

Tweddle and other researchers published a report in 2015, in which they found that the number of large fish from the Cichlid-family has decreased by 90% between 2010 and 2012.

“Volunteers from local communities that monitor fish populations have also experienced a decrease in their gill net catches from 2010 to 2012, going from 7kg  per night to just over 1kg per night. This is despite the good raining season between 2007 and 2011.

“Accordingly, during experimental research done by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in 2008 around 7kg of fish were caught in gill nets per night, but in 2012 this declined to about 2kg per night.”

Image: Otto Grahl

Image: Illegal Fishing Activities in Namibia


Tweddle said that fortunately the fish population has adapted to survive their harsh natural environments, and that their numbers will recover once the pressure has been resolved.

“The entire fishing eco-system is the Zambezi is in dire need of strong floods and the prohibition of monofilament nets.”

“Governments in Africa are struggling with the policing of fishing activities in our rivers due to the lack of capacity, money and infrastructure, and also because this is such a large area to control. Consequently, we try to implement long term projects together with the government to empower the communities in KaZa to manage their own fishing resources,” said Tweddle.

Image: Horst Koortzen

Image: Horst Koortzen

He says that the programme has led to various success stories and the establishment of two fish-conservation areas – one in the Sikunga conservation area and the other in the Impalila conservation area.

“These areas are respectively 12km in length. Trained guards keep the fisherman away from these areas. Namibian communities have in the meantime also come forward with suggestions on which areas should be declared conservation areas. Some communities around Muyako and Luso on the Liambezi-lake have also declared their own rules for fishing, with varying success.”


Why the Namib Wild Horses are fighting for their survival

Wild horses have always been accompanied by a certain ideology. Strength, majestic beauty, resilience…these are the qualities we tend to link to these interesting and unique creatures. The Namib wild horses are arguably the only herd of feral horses left in Africa. However a question that few people have the true answer to is: what is the origin of these distinct creatures?


 There is no concrete evidence for the herd’s history, but theories and speculation have allowed for a loose idea to develop. The two theories that make the most sense are that the horses of today are decedents of the Union of South Africa troops that were stationed close to Garub during World War I. This group was sustained by the borehole that was located in the area. After the German Troops bombed the Union Camp on 27 March 1915, it was thought that they did not have the time required to recapture all the horses. Therefore the horses remained in the area, free to roam as they please.

Image: Judy & Scott Hurd

Image: Judy & Scott Hurd

 Another theory that goes hand-in-hand with the above mentioned, is that the horses’ origins are linked to the mayor of Lüderitzin 1909 to 1914, Emil Kreplin. Kreplin owned a stud farm just south of Aus where he bred workhorses for the mines and racehorses to be used in town. Thanks to photographic evidence of the said stud farm, found by Walter Rusch, similarities can be seen with regards to characteristic markings of the stud horses and the present-day wild horses. These similarities show traces of Hackney, Trakehner and Shagya Arab breeds.

Image:  Judy & Scott Hurd

Image: Judy & Scott Hurd

Because of the war and ensuing depression in Europe, Kreplin lost his fortune and his farm. This allowed the horses, now without an owner and no fences to keep them caged, to move freely and follow the scattered rainfall in the area. Eventually these unique creatures would have made their way to the water source at Garub.

Image: Judy & Scott Hurd

Image: Judy & Scott Hurd

The Kreplin horses would have joined the Union horses to create the herd that lives in the area today.Over time this herd has become known as a breed it its own right, namely the ‘Namibs’.This herd lives within the restricted Sperrgebiet diamond area, which has provided safety from hunters and poachers. And they have adapted to the harsh conditions of the arid region.

The fascination these animals inspire is linked to their representation of freedom. This is one of the reasons why the herd has become such a successful tourist attraction. However this stunning attraction, like many other parts of the country, is suffering under the weight of the heavy drought we are experiencing.

Image: Judy & Scott Hurd

Image: Judy & Scott Hurd

Image: Judy & Scott Hurd

Image: Judy & Scott Hurd

The herd’s numbers have always fluctuated depending on available grazing, but where it once stood at more than three hundred horses, In July a mere 148 remained, and numbers have decreased even further.

Image: Judy & Scott Hurd

Image: Judy & Scott Hurd

The herd has not had any surviving foals in the past three years and the lack of grazing is taking its toll.Younger stallions were faring better than the older generations that were suffering from malnutrition influenced by their age.

Image: Judy & Scott Hurd

Image: Judy & Scott Hurd

The biggest threat right now is from spotted hyenas, as the horses no longer have the strength to outrun them or defend themselves against them.

Thankfully this cause has enjoyed tremendous support from a vast amount of sources. However it may not be enough to support the entire herd for the months it may take for the raining season to begin. The horses’ diet consisted mostly of lucern, but has recently shifted to grass as the lucern provides too much protein. Take a look at the video below, where equine specialist Dr Telané Greyling explains the current situation and what it may mean for the horses.

If you may be interested in supporting the herd, we welcome and appreciate any additional aid.

Donations can be made by EFT of credit card. Bank details:

Beneficiary: Namibia Wild Horses Foundation

Bank: First National Bank of Namibia

Account number: 62246659489

Account type: Savings

Branch code: 281479

Please email details of any funds deposited to telanie@namibhorses.com

More on the history, background and behaviour of the wild horses can be found in the book Wild Horses of the Namib Desert by Telané Greyling, Mannfred Goldbeck and Ron Swilling.

If you have any stories about or experiences with the wild horses of the Namib, please share them with us in the comment section below.

Author – Jescey Visagie is a proud Namibian and is passionate about writing and language. Tag along for the ride as she tries to uncover new insights into Namibia and explores what the country has to offer.

Jescey Visagie


How to taste Namibia

Taste Namibia!

Food is a universal language that has a tendency to bring people together and in Namibia we take this ‘language’ very seriously. When traveling to another country, place, destination… the location’s cuisine becomes part of your local experience. The tastes become memories associated with your journey and can often help remind you of the moments enjoyed while abroad. In Namibia this is no different, here you will have access to a variety of unique and tasty delights that will make your mouth water at the mere thought of them.

Let’s start in the south… Along the Fish River Canyon, just a few kilometres away from the ridges, you will find the Canyon Roadhouse. Now besides the quirky décor and playful atmosphere, the real treasure at this location is the Amarula cheese cake. Light and delicious, this is something not to be missed. I cannot offer our scrumptious recipe, but I can offer the closest one available! Click here for the recipe to try your own Amarula cheese cake.

Image: mzansi style cuisine.co.za

Amarula cheese cake – Image: mzansi style cuisine.co.za

Next up and not to be missed, is the chicken schnitzel at Kalahari Farmhouse in the small town of Stampriet. Schnitzels are a relativity well-known food, being a boneless piece of meat that has been flattened out and coated in crumbs, but the Farmhouse does things slightly differently. I am not quite sure what the chef does, it must be some deliciously secret ingredient that makes this dish so tasty. All I can say is that this is definitely something to add to your travel list.

Chicken Schnitzel - Image: daringgourmet.com

Chicken Schnitzel – Image: daringgourmet.com

Make your way to the coast and enter The Delight Swakopmund. This is the place where breakfast gets interesting… start your day with champagne and fresh oysters! For those who haven’t had oysters before, they are simple to eat. Just add some lemon juice, a few drops of green Tabasco, and salt and pepper and there you go! A word of caution, you’re either going to love it or hate it, there is no in between.

Breakfast at The Delight Swakopmund

Breakfast at The Delight Swakopmund

Another delightful indulgence that can be found at The Delight is the banana delight. This is their own version of banana bread but here they top it off with fresh, hand-whipped cream. It is a sweet way to start the morning and if you’re lucky the bread may still be warm, which makes it taste ten times better! To try your own version of the Banana Delight, click here and start whipping the cream.

Banana bread - Image: flickr.com

Banana bread – Image: flickr.com

And of course no trip would be complete without tasting the chocolate mousse at Hakusembe River lodge. Light and airy and absolutely delectable, this is a dessert that will linger in your thoughts for a while. And the surprise found at the bottom of the glass…fresh raspberries grown in their own garden! This is a must-taste and even if you may not be able to make the trip right away, here is a simple recipe for you to try it for yourself.

Chocolate mousse - Image:cookingwithcurls.com

Chocolate mousse – Image:cookingwithcurls.com

And to end off on a savoury note…nothing comes close to the Oryx steaks and mushroom sauce that can be enjoyed at the Kalahari Anib Lodge. Namibia is known for its game meat and this lodge makes full use of it. The steak is juicy and tender, perfectly cooked and the sauce rounds off the whole culinary experience.

Needless to say there are vast amounts of other incredibly tasty foods that can be enjoyed in Namibia. Unique items like a good braai, kapana and malva pudding to name but a few. What is your favourite Namibian dish? Share it with us in the comment section below.

Author – Jescey Visagie is a proud Namibian and is passionate about writing and language. Tag along for the ride as she tries to uncover new insights into Namibia and explores what the country has to offer.

Jescey Visagie