Chambo is an important fish to Malawi's economy and to the livelihoods of local people in the southern end of Lake Malawi. Overexploitation of the chambo has been a source of concern since the 1930s. The biological and economic collapse of the fishery in Lake Malombe and the Upper Shire River in the early 1990s, and growing evidence in recent years of its decline in the Southeast Arm of Lake Malawi (the major productive area for the species) have galvanised the Government of Malawi into making an attempt to restore the chambo to former levels of production.
This paper argues that while the proposed solutions for restoring the chambo might be well intentioned, they nevertheless ignore existing knowledge and scholarship about fisheries management in African freshwater lakes gathered over the last six decades. A body of knowledge on the biological and scientific basis for regulating the chambo already exists. The missing link is an understanding and appreciation of the social, economic, political and institutional drivers on exploitation patterns of the chambo. Future management solutions must be based on the collective concerns of all potential users. More specifically, such solutions should be cognisant of local knowledge, fishers' experiences and the way they view and define their problems. If these are disregarded, finding solutions to the enormous challenge of restoring chambo stocks to their former status will be as difficult as grappling in the dark.