There are three major fish industries in Zimbabwe: Bream Farming, Trout Farming and Kapenta Fishing.
Zimbabwe has no tradition of aquaculture, although the concept was first introduced as early as the 1950s. The main activities at that time were stocking farm dams and commercial trout farming in the Eastern Highlands. Intensive research was also initiated at the then Hendersen Research Station.
Most fish farms are relatively small. A large number of farms use manure as the main nutrient input but a significant number use commercial fish feeds. Most farmers produce their own seed while some, mainly trout farmers, depended on National Parks for fingerlings.
Approximately 70% of farmers are farming tilapia, with an increasing number of farms growing Orechromis niloticus. However, the requirements to obtain permits to import this non-indigenous species have been considered a constraint by some producers. Trout were the next most important culture species , while catfish and carp were farmed to a lesser degree .
In addition to producing fish for the food fish market, a popular reason for growing fish was for farm workers’ food and for recreational fee fishing. A number of dams have been converted to angling waters. In several of these cases, feeding is promoted and some waters have yielded record bass in recent years. The recent upsurge in interest in tilapia fillets on the American and European markets has inspired considerable commercial interest in growing the fish in Africa, maximizing on the warmer climatic conditions and relatively cheaper resource and labor base.
This industry in centered in the Eastern Districts and produces an exceptional product for local and overseas consumption. The range includes frozen whole trout, trout fillets, smoked trout and trout pates.
The centre for kapenta fishing is Lake Kariba.This industry supplies kapenta to the country where it is eaten by a wide range of the local population and served as snacks and starters in hotels.
Visitors to Kariba may notice the many lights shining brightly on the lake at night from the kapenta fishing rigs, and be interested to know briefly how this fishery was formed. Various experiments were undertaken by Lake Kariba Fisheries Institute in catching this fish, based on traditional techniques used on Lake Tanganyika. In 1973, however, the first commercial fishing enterprise formed, pioneering purse seine and square lift net techniques. Over the years, however, the dip net method has proved to be most productive, together with high-technology fish finders, hydraulic winches, etc.
Dip nets are suspended from a boom on the rigs. They are fitted onto a 6 or 7 meter diameter ring – conical in shape they are some 10 or 12 meters long. To commence fishing during darkness [kapenta are light attracted] the nets and underwater lights are lowered into the water and the overhead lights switched onto attract kapenta into the vicinity of the rig. After half an hour or so, the overhead lights are switched off to concentrate the shoal around the under water light just above the net. The net is lifted at least three or four times during the night – more when the season is good. The kapenta thus caught are transferred into baskets and coarse salt added to maintain freshness. On return to harbour in the morning, the fish is placed onto drying racks where it is sun dried losing two thirds of its wet weight. This dried high protein product has the benefit of having a long ‘shelf life’ and easily transported into remote areas without refrigeration. It is of interest to note that the size and life cycle of this species has adapted to harvesting over the years. Lake Kariba kapenta are smaller than their Lake Tanganyika brothers, reproducing at a smaller size and more frequently. Like grass – it grows better when cut.