Artisanal fisheries yielded about 25% of the total fish landings and employed over 90%
of all fishers worldwide in the early 1990s. Catch and effort trends of these fisheries
are often difficult to monitor due to remote locations, the presence of multiple species
in the catch, widely dispersed fishing, and a lack of resources available to fisheries
managers. Traditional fishery practices and local knowledge of fish identification and
ecology can provide convenient and cost-effective methods for monitoring artisanal
fisheries. The open-water seine-net ("chirimila") fishery of Chembe village in Lake Malawi
National Park, Malawi, Africa, was monitored with methods based on local fish measurement
and preservation and identification practices. The catch per unit effort, fishing effort,
total catch, species composition, and bycatch of this artisanal fishery were determined
for a 1-year period with these methods. The Chembe open-water seine-net fishery targets
the small cyprinid Engraulicypris sardella and species of the cichlid genus
Copadichromis, the combined catch of which was nearly 1,000 metric tons during
the 1-year study period. The Copadichromis component of the fishery was dominated
by C. virginalis, C. conophoros, C. chrysonotus, and C. borleyi.
The most common species in the open-water seine-net bycatch were Rhamphochromis spp.,
Bagrus meridionalis, Opsaridium microcephalum, and Oreochromis spp.
Relatively minor bycatches of small rock-dwelling cichlids ("mbuna") also occurred. This
study demonstrates that traditional fish handling practices and local knowledge can
provide the basis for effective monitoring programs for artisanal fisheries.