In this article I analyse a community-based small scale fisheries management (now becoming a co-management arrangement) for Mbenji Island located in the central part of Lake Malawi through the lenses of the concept of power. The analysis is at the local level where majority of the important actors operate. The actors include traditional chiefs, Department of Fisheries and fishing communities through the Beach Village Committees. The analysis, which is based on decentralisation and power frameworks, shows that there is unequal power distribution between these different actors, often resulting in the marginalization of the fishers themselves. While the Department of Fisheries and Beach Village Committees draw their powers from the current fisheries policy and legislative frameworks, the traditional chiefs remain influential through their inherited customary powers and appointments made through their chiefs’ legislative framework. Over the past years, however, there has been a shift from the culturally based fisheries management to a co-management reform whereby the traditional leaders are now advancing their own political, economic, or institutional agendas. The traditional leader exercises more authority over management of the fisheries resources with limited accountability and low participation of the fishers. While there is a need to safeguard the cultural heritage in managing the small scale fisheries and the need to promote co-management within the context of rights based fisheries, focus should also be on the participation of the fishers and accountability of the traditional leaders for advancement of the institutional and resource resilience.