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Developing Sustainable Fisheries in Lake Malawi National Park (Malawi)

Geographical focus

Lake Malawi National Park was established in 1980 as a National Park and inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1984 for its natural beauty (criterion vii) and outstanding biodiversity values, notably due to its value to science as a remarkable example of biological evolution (criterion ix) and exceptional diversity of its fresh water fishes (criterion x).

 However, this rich biodiversity is increasingly being stressed by human activities such as overfishing and land-use change. Therefore, there is a need to monitor the fish diversity and quantifying its availability as it is one of the Outstanding Universal Value for the property. Malawi remains as among the world’s least developed countries, marked by persistent and widespread poverty and high levels of inequality and vulnerability.[1]

Located at the Southern end of the great expense of Lake Malawi, with its deep, clear waters and mountain backdrop, the national park is home to many hundreds of fish species, nearly all endemic. Its importance for the study of evolution is incomparable to that of the finches of the Galapagos Islands.


Based on the recommendations from the latest Reactive Monitoring Mission that took place from 30th March to 4th April 2014, and the Committee Decision 42 COM 7B.93 (Manama, 2018), when the World Heritage Committee welcomed the progress made by the State Party of Malawi to update the World Heritage property’s management plan and to establish a fish monitoring protocol. The Committee also requested the State Party to take this opportunity to identify and reinforce the required management responses to the various threats and challenges facing the property, including growing population pressures inside the property, and ensuring continued close cooperation between the park management, communities, and the competent research and government institutions.

The project mainly aims at improving the state of conservation of the lake, through the following activities:

  • Aquatic Area Boundary Demarcation
  • Build Fish Monitoring capacity of the Research Team at the site
  • Develop alternative livelihoods activities for local communities in the enclave villages and promote sustainable fishing techniques in order to reduce pressure on fisheries
  • Conduct Fish monitoring and improve working relationship with other partners.

Progress Made

  • Identification of priority activities with the site manager
  • Ongoing identification of a technical partner (Proposal for Ripple Africa)
  • Identification of further co-financing
  • Mission to the site is needed to further set up a comprehensive programme of activities (currently not possible)
  • From 14th to 19th September 2020, Ripple Africa undertook a scoping mission aiming at (i) assessing the attitude and relationships between the different key stakeholders (ii) evaluating the different pressures and actions undertook on the property and (iii) drawing the outlines of an effective fish monitoring protocol. To this end, consultations were held between Ripple Africa's Country Director and various stakeholders including Parks and Wildlife Director, Chief Fisheries Officer, Madothi, Chembe and Msaka Beach Village Committees, Chimphamba and Chembe Village Natural Resource Committees, Lodge owners, tour guides and relevant traditional authorities. The mission resulted in the production of a report highlighting the current conservation situation and making recommendations for UNESCO on how to implement the required management actions responding to the various threats and challenges facing the property. The report can be downloaded here.
  • A second phase of the project will be implemented following the recommendations of the previous scoping mission. A consultation meeting with the key stakeholders involved in the implementation of the project will be organized early February 2021 to develop the technical proposal and the detailed budget.



[1] Malawi’s Human Development Index value for 2017 is 0.477— which put the country in the low human development category — positioning it at 171 out of 189 countries and territories, according to the UNDP Human Development Indices and Indicators.

World Heritage Properties 1
States parties 1
Geographical focus
Decisions / Resolutions (1)
Code: 42COM 7B.93

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 38 COM 7B.92 and 40 COM 7B.81, adopted at its 38th (Doha, 2014) and 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016) sessions respectively,
  3. While welcoming the State Party’s efforts for the property’s conservation and the implementation of the 2014 mission recommendations and acknowledging the State Party’s assurance that the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) is maintained and that the policy framework for protection is strong, requests the State Party to provide up-to-date monitoring data and detailed information on management activities and any recent and planned constructions, including clarification regarding whether or not the overhead power line is a new construction, in order to enable an informed assessment of the property’s current state of conservation;
  4. Welcomes the progress to update the property’s management plan and to establish a fish monitoring protocol with support from the World Heritage Fund, and also requests the State Party to take this opportunity to identify and reinforce the required management responses to the various threats faced by the property, including the growing population pressure inside the property, and to ensure continued close cooperation between the park, communities, and the competent research and government institutions;
  5. Further requests the State Party to examine, in consultation with the States Parties of Mozambique and the United Republic of Tanzania, the feasibility of establishing a buffer zone and extending the boundaries of the property to strengthen its integrity;
  6. Reiterating its position that oil, gas and mineral exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status, reiterates its utmost concern over oil exploration activities in the lake, which pose a potentially severe risk to the OUV of the property including its conditions of integrity, and urges the State Party to confirm by 1 February 2019 the status of any oil exploration permits and activities, and reiterates its call on the companies Surestream and RAKGAS, which have been granted oil exploration concessions on the lake, to make a commitment to neither exploit nor explore for oil or gas in World Heritage properties;
  7. Reiterates its request to undertake Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) in conformity with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, on all development projects, including for oil exploration outside the property’s boundaries and any infrastructure and tourism developments that may impact on the property’s OUV, and submit them to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN as soon as available, and prior to making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse, in accordance with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  8. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2019, a report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.

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