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This paper reviews the management challenges facing Malawi lakes and analyzes the management responses that have been developed to deal with these challenges. Malawi lakes are under considerable stress due to high population growth and increasing levels of poverty which have led to overexploitation of fishery resources.

Lake Chilwa produces between zero and 24,000 metric tons of fish per year, making it one of the most productive but variable lakes in Africa. The size of the lake varies seasonally and among years, sometimes drying completely. Its surrounding wetland and floodplain provide habitat for a diversity of birds and economically valuable grasses and reeds. When the lake has water, there is considerable activity on its shores and temporary fishing villages spring up.

Small inland fisheries are important to the livelihoods of the poor in Africa, contributing both food security and income to millions of households living near freshwater lakes, reservoirs, rivers and floodplains. These inland fisheries have complex exploitation systems with large numbers of fishers operating in the informal sector. These systems are highly vulnerable to external disturbance, making them extremely difficult to assess and manage.

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