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Environmental variability and the fishery dynamics of the Okavango delta, Botswana: the case of subsistence fishing


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The hydrological regime of the Okavango River Basin is the main driver of ecological change in the delta. The delta supports a small-scale fishery which is a source of livelihood for communities within its fringes. The fish resource is particularly important to subsistence fishers, who have limited access to socio-economic opportunities. However, fish availability is subject to ‘concentration and dilution’ effects because of the hydrological regime. As a copying strategy, fishers use a variety of fishing methods to effectively harvest the delta’s fish community across all its trophic levels. This exploitation regime helps to maintain the delta’s species diversity and only reduces fish biomass proportionally across the different trophical levels. Furthermore, fishers have developed different fish-processing techniques to preserve their harvest for low fishing season periods to cope with low food availability. The aim of this paper therefore, was to explore spatio-temporal variations in fish availability and to show how the delta’s subsistence fishers cope with this dynamicity.