Crayfish, also known as freshwater lobsters, mountain lobsters or yabbies, are freshwater crustaceans which are found in Lake Kariba. They resemble small lobsters and are related to lobsters and crabs.


Crayfish are omnivores and eat almost anything that they finds including plants, invertebrates, snails, small fish, fish eggs and even their own offspring. The species have been reported to be breeding out of control, devouring the food sources of all fish breeds, including breams. They have also been blamed for the decrease in the population of breams and karpenta in Lake Kariba.[1]

Crayfish as food

Boiled Crayfish
Boiled Crayfish

Crayfish are eaten worldwide. Even though its flesh is high in protein it is not popular in the diet of ordinary Zimbabweans. In stores in Harare, it sells for around $9 a kilogram (2.2 pounds), $12 when still alive in fish shop aquariums, and far more in upmarket restaurants patronised by the wealthy well-traveled elite and Zimbabwe's growing Chinese community. [2]

Introduction into Lake Kariba

The red claw Australian crayfish scientifically called Cherax Quadricarinatus and known colloquially in Australia as the yabby, was first "farmed" in neighboring Zambia. The crayfish was introduced in the lake after escaping from the fish farms in Zambia in 2002.[1]

Out of control breeding

The red claw crayfish,was reported to be responsible for the decline of Karpenta in Lake Kariba.

The crayfish have no natural predators in the lake and have been reported to be devouring the food sources of other fish and putting the lake’s entire aquatic ecosystem at risk. The crayfish is robust and hardy and cannot be poisoned without killing other natural species.

The Parks and Wildlife Management Authority of Zimbabwe (PWMAZ) says kapenta output plunged to 8 746 tonnes in 2013, from 19 957 tonnes in 1993. However, the report also noted that overfishing was contributing to the decrease as well. [1]Overfishing and crayfish have been blamed for the decrease in the health of kapenta stock by researchers.

Permits for commercial crayfish farming

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) started issuing commercial crayfish fishing permits in northern Lake Kariba, in July 2014. Zimparks considered this as on of the ways to eliminate crayfish from the crayfish from the lake. Zimparks commercial director, Liberty Nyaguse at that time said:

We feel that it is one of the ways to eliminate the fish from the lake.

Not many permits have been issued out. We call upon interested people and cooperatives to approach parks so that we give them the permits[3]

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Makoshori, Shame (July 3, 2014). "Crayfish invade Bumi basin". Financial Gazette. Retrieved July 8, 2014.
  2. "Crayfish crisis in Lake Kariba". NEw Zimbabwe. July 5, 2014. Retrieved July 8, 2014.
  3. Chitumba, Patrick (July 8, 2014). "Zimparks issues crayfish permits". Chronicle. Retrieved July 8, 2014.