CURRENTLY, Uganda produces about 90 metric tons of fish. Added to the about 450 metric tons of wild catch, the country produces about 530 metric tons of fish annually.
By Alex Gahima and John Agaba
AS the numbers of fish available in water bodies for harvesting continues to dwindle globally, there is a need for new alternative aquaculture technologies to be adopted to ensure sustainability and competiveness on the market.
This was the remark from Edward Rukunja, the assistant commissioner for fisheries in the agriculture ministry, while opening the 8th Aquaculture Symposium at Fairway Hotel in Kampala on Thursday, hosted by the Walimi Fish Farmers Cooperative Society (WAFICOS).
The commissioner, who was representing the state minister for fisheries, Ruth Nankabirwa, expressed concern over the rate of over fishing on Ugandan water bodies as a result of the open access policy that allows anyone to cast a net, rooting for these advanced technologies.
“It is not a challenge for only Uganda. It is worldwide. But we can engage in these modern fish farming practices and add value to the fish we produce by processing it before selling,” Rukunja said.
Currently, Uganda produces about 90 metric tons of fish (from fish farming). Added to the about 450 metric tons of wild catch (fish caught from lakes and other water bodies), the country produces about 530 metric tons of fish annually.
Of this, about 200 metric tons are exported to regional and European markets, bringing in about $132m (sh372b) forex annually.
“But we can’t keep depending on wild catch. Currently, there is over fishing. And although Government has tried regulating the sector by introducing Vessel Identification Plates to manage the number of fishermen on these water bodies, we need to scale up modern fish farming,” Paul Omanyi, the principal fisheries officer in the agriculture ministry said.
“As FAO (Food and Agriculture of United Nations) looks to achieve a 41% of fish production in the entire world by 2020, we have set ourselves an ambitious target to produce at least 300 metric tons of fish by 2017,” Omanyi said.
“We need to restock all valley dams and minor water bodies, subsidize on feeds for farmers as well as operationalize aqua parks that have already been set up country wide,” he said.
Government in 2013 conducted feasibility studies for land and water based concentrated production units (Aqua Parks) in Apac and Kalangala districts respectively to increase fish produce. It also gave licenses to some farmers to do cage fish farming on Lake Victoria.
Tom Musoke, who is a fish farmer and the WAFICOS vice chairperson, appealed to Government to consider fish farmers concerns of the high cost of fish feeds, their quality, quantity and supply.
“The lakes are drying. And this can be turned into an opportunity by investing in aquaculture and turning it into a profitable and sustainable business,” Musoke said.
Fish farming to hit 300 metric tons by 2017