FISH­ING

The good , bad and ugly

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - SOCIETY - Garikai Mazara

THE Kariba In­vi­ta­tional Tiger Fish­ing Tour­na­ment, which — all things be­ing equal — should be Zim­babwe’s largest pri­vate sec­tor-driven tourism win­dow, came and went a fort­night ago.

And Zim­bab­weans did not re­ally take the bait. This is our story ex­plain­ing why we feel

KITFT 2017 was not what it could have been.

We left for Kariba on a Thurs­day and as on pre­vi­ous jour­neys around the coun­try, we were very ap­pre­hen­sive of a heavy po­lice pres­ence on the road.

But, alas! Not even a sin­gle flag­ging by the po­lice to and from Kariba. This is cer­tainly a turn up for the books.

When we stopped over in Chin­hoyi on our way back, in­ter­act­ing with a col­league who is a po­lice of­fi­cer, we were in­formed that a memo had been sent out (which was not meant for pub­lic con­sump­tion) that for the sake of tourism and busi­ness, the po­lice had been asked not to be heavy-handed on the roads.

The memo may have been too lit­tle too late for KITFT 2017 but Rod Ben­net — the or­gan­is­ing di­rec­tor — said, “We have not lost hope, we want this tour­na­ment to get back to what it used to be, and we are al­ready plan­ning for next year’s event. We be­lieve in this tour­na­ment, its po­ten­tial as a sport, as a tourism event, as a leisure pas­time and we wouldn’t want to give up that eas­ily.”

Whilst the per­cep­tion cre­ated by the heavy pres­ence of po­lice on our high­ways over the past months is on the way to be­ing cor­rected, the next hur­dle for Ben­net and team is to get the Zim­babwe Parks and Wildlife Man­age­ment Author­ity to be on the same page with them.

Par­tic­i­pat­ing in the tour­na­ment costs a lit­tle too much.

“If you want to fish or­di­nar­ily, Parks will charge you US$5 per day. But for this tour­na­ment, par­tic­i­pants are charged US$20 per per­son per day. This is a three-day tour­na­ment and for a four-mem­ber team, that is US$240. Just Parks’ fees. We haven’t fac­tored in the fuel for prac­tice ses­sions and par­tic­i­pa­tion, fuel for travel to and from Kariba, ac­com­mo­da­tion and food,” said Ben­net.

Ti­nashe Farawo, the spokesper­son for ZimParks and who was at the tour­na­ment, said a win-win so­lu­tion could be found.

“But we have been promised an en­gage­ment for the past five years,” charged Ben­net.

Be­sides Farawo and his team from ZimParks, Sugar Chagonda — the Zim­babwe Tourism Author­ity spokesper­son - and his team were also present, con­firm­ing Gov­ern­ment’s in­ter­est in the KITFT.

Though Ben­net said the tour­na­ment was open to all, it looks oth­er­wise. And this could be be­cause of the costs.

For in­stance, ei­ther as an in­di­vid­ual or as a team, the first and fore­most item on the check­list to be ticked is a fish­ing boat, an ac­ces­sory which or­di­nar­ily is not found at many res­i­dences.

Up next is the ve­hi­cle to tow the boat to Kariba. Yes, you can use a smaller car but it is much eas­ier with a big­ger en­gine.

Add an­cil­lary costs like fuel for prac­tice

ses­sions, par­tic­i­pa­tion, travel to and from Kariba, ac­com­mo­da­tion and food, and the Parks fees, and what you have is an event for the well off.

Whilst the drop to 55 teams for this year’s tour­na­ment might look sud­den and dis­heart­en­ing, Ben­net is of the view that the tour­na­ment has reached its nadir and from next year it will be back to busi­ness as usual.

“There have been is­sues around con­ser­vancy, is­sues which we are quite aware of and we have, in the past, ex­per­i­mented with ‘catch-and-re­lease’ and there are dis­cus­sions to bring this for­mat in fu­ture com­pe­ti­tions.

“Ba­si­cally what we are say­ing is, an an­gler catches, weighs and releases the tiger back into the wa­ter. So there are a num­ber of tech­no­log­i­cal is­sues that we need to ad­dress, like the cap­ture of such data, how it can be col­lated and au­then­ti­cated. “Which again brings to the fore the ques­tion of the $20 ZimParks’ fees, if some­one is catch­ing and re­leas­ing, in essence they are not fish­ing, so why should they be charged US$20?

“All said and done, we are cog­nizant that we need to use our re­sources sus­tain­ably and the catch-and-re­lease op­tion is one way of en­sur­ing that our tiger fish keep on breed­ing and that the tour­na­ment does not die.”

An­other is­sue that has been of con­cern is that of fish poach­ing, which nat­u­rally has an ef­fect on the qual­ity and quan­tity of tiger fish caught.

Farawo said ZimParks’ rangers were al­ways on pa­trol and would ap­pre­ci­ate co-op­er­a­tion not just from fish­ers, but from the broader Kariba com­mu­nity as they col­lec­tively de­rive ben­e­fits from the sus­tain­able ex­ploita­tion of the lake’s re­sources.

The or­gan­is­ers of KITFT are look­ing for­ward to a brighter day and have pen­cilled October 10, 11 and 12 as the dates for next year’s edition.

“We are al­ready in full swing work­ing on next year’s event and we are hop­ing that the num­bers will be bet­ter than this year. In Fe­bru­ary we will hold the tra­di­tional Test of the Best, where the top 10 win­ners will com­pete for hon­ours.

“This tour­na­ment is held on a catc­hand-re­lease for­mat, a for­mat which we want to sharpen and em­brace in full in fu­ture edi­tions of KITFT. Af­ter the Fe­bru­ary meet, it will be all full swing for the October tour­na­ment. And we are hop­ing that tiger fish­ing will, def­i­nitely, find its step next year. It has to come to the table and be counted as the premier sport­ing, tourism and leisure event of the year for Zim­babwe.”

,2Kg fish caught on the sec­ond day of the tour­na­ment

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