The Cichlid Fishes of Lake Malawi, Africa

Abstract of Doctoral Dissertation

Sabrina Lynn Drill
University of California, Los Angeles, 2002
Adviser: Judith A. Carney  

Biodiversity conservation and community-based fisheries management in Lake Malawi, East Africa (Malawi, Mozambique)  

Home to over 800 species, Lake Malawi has the highest fish species diversity of any lake in the world. It is also an important source of food, income, and employment in one of the poorest regions on the planet. The lake is subject to a variety of environmental problems. The most pressing of these arise from the fact that the failure of the agriculture and aid based economy, and demographic changes resulting from both a high birth rate and a serious AIDS epidemic, has forced people to intensify their utilization of natural resources. This has led to intensified cultivation, serious deforestation, and localized over-fishing. This dissertation examines the value of biodiversity in Lake Malawi, and presents the results of field research examining the threat to fish diversity and fish stocks posed by the small-scale fishery. I then examine the approaches that have been taken to conservation and fisheries management in Malawi. Decentralization is an important concept in political restructuring in Malawi, and the Fisheries Department began experimenting with community involvement in resource management in the early 1990's, with some limited success. Participatory fisheries management has received great attention from fisheries managers and international development agencies, partly because of the failure of other approaches. Field research in fishing villages at Lake Malawi, and in the agencies responsible for fisheries management, allows for a detailed analysis of the potential for community based fisheries management in Lake Malawi to address over-exploitation and species diversity loss. This research raises questions about what kinds of ecosystems are appropriate for community based natural resource management, and adds to a growing body of literature questioning the application of this approach. This dissertation acts to expand the analytical framework of political ecology to include aquatic systems.




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