The decline of the valuable Chambo (Oreochromis species) in the southern part of Lake Malawi, where an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries is being applied, is a major economic and ecological concern. Annual Chambo fish harvests have continued to show a downward trend especially for the past two decades thereby adversely affecting the livelihoods of many fishers, processors and traders along the value chain. As part of the institutional agenda within the ecosystem approach to fisheries, a key question remains on the status of the fisheries co-management, which was introduced in the area in the mid 1990s. This article applies a fishery performance indicator framework to assess the fisheries co-management in the study area as baseline information for the development of the ecosystem approach to fisheries. The assessment is based on an expert analysis by the author and a review of previous study reports on the fisheries co-management as a governance reform. Results show weak fisheries governance with the existence of several challenges and threats that continue to impact on the ecosystem status like continued use of illegal fishing practices, climate change and unlimited entry. To improve fisheries co-management, the fishing by-laws that were formulated in 2007 need to be approved by Mangochi district authorities within the on-going decentralization process.

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