Fifty-five fishermen believed to be Zambians have been detained by authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after they were caught fishing illegally on Lake Mweru.
Nchelenge District Commissioner, Joseph Chisakula, confirmed the development to Zambia News and Information Services (ZANIS) in Nchelenge today.
Mr Chisakula said the 55 men were captured in two separate incidents by Congolese marine soldiers after they were found fishing on the Zambian side of the Lake. He said the first batch of 27 fishermen was apprehended from Kashilu village on January 17, this year, while the latest group of 28 fishermen was picked up from Chinsamba and Kabeke villages on Kilwa Island on January 30, 2013.
The District Commissioner explained that the exact identities of the apprehended men have not been established. He said information received so far is that 27 of the fishermen were initially detained in the DRC’s Kashobwe area but were later flown to Kipushi where they have been detained. Mr Chisakula said 12 of the fishermen have been detained in Nkole while the remaining 16 have been detained at Kilwa Mulenga Island.
He said government is engaging its Congolese counterparts in an effort to secure the release of the fishermen. Mr Chisakula took a swipe at the fishermen for engaging in illegal fishing activities, saying, government has been spending huge sums of money each year in securing the release of fishermen caught fishing illegally. He, urged the fishermen to consider diversifying their economic activities by also engaging in activities such as crop production and animal husbandry. The Zambian and Congolese governments, which enforce the fishing ban simultaneously, have made an agreement to conduct joint patrols of Lake Mweru. However, fishermen have complained that Congolese soldiers individually stray into Zambian waters to apprehend Zambian fishers.