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Government to revamp fishing sector

By Vision Reporter

Added 14th July 2010 03:00 AM

IN a bid to recoup over sh120b losses worth of exports incurred last year, the government is set to roll out a new fishing regime with a new statutory instrument.

IN a bid to recoup over sh120b losses worth of exports incurred last year, the government is set to roll out a new fishing regime with a new statutory instrument.

By Macrines Nyapendi
IN a bid to recoup over sh120b losses worth of exports incurred last year, the government is set to roll out a new fishing regime with a new statutory instrument.

Among the measures aimed at restoring the glory of Lake Victoria and sustain fish exports, the Government is addressing the issue of open access to the lake where fishermen ply freely.

The statutory instrument will restrict the number of fishermen, fishing gear and boats on the lake through thorough screening of fishers before they are licensed, issue quality and safety certificates and limit the number of fishers per landing site.

Nsimbe Bulega, the principle fisheries officer, said the stringent measures are meant to control the fishing effort on the lakes and ensure sustainable exploitation of the fisher resources.

“The illicit fishing practices that have caused the fish stocks to dwindle are a result of the failure to control access and fishing effort on Uganda’s most exploited lakes.

The slackness in enforcing good fishing practices gave opportunists a chance to abusively exploit the lakes,” Bulega explained.

By December 2010, the department plans to have stamped out illicit fishing on the five major lakes.

Until recently, fish was the second largest non traditional foreign exchange earner; exports to international markets rose from about sh820m in 1990s to over about sh297.3b in mid 2000s.

Fish export earnings touched $145m in 2005, from $103m in 2004, but dropped to $117m in 2007 due to lack of raw materials that forced some processors out of the business.

Over 80% of Uganda's fish for export is captured from Lake Victoria while Lake Kyoga, Albert and Edward account for about 20%.

Bulega said; “Because man has proved to be a big disappointment to the fishery resource eco system, giving man a fish and not teaching him how to fish may be a better way of preserving the diminishing fish stocks.”

Increased demand for Nile perch on the international markets speed up the sectors and attracted massive investments in processing; in a span of eight years, fish processing industries rose from two to 18.

The industry employs over 500,000 people directly and contributes to the livelihood of nearly 1.5 million people in the country.

According to 2008 statistics from the Department of Fisheries Resources in Entebbe, the fishing boats and canoes have risen from 42000 to 69,000, the number of hooks rose to nine million up from 3.5m.

while gill nets increased from 650,000 to 1.2 million in 10 years.

The above fishing equipment is reportedly own by an estimated 200,000 fishermen. Over 40% of the fishing gear in operation are illegal.

The surging number of fishermen and small boats has severely affected the breeding process of the fish.

“The small boats do not ply the deep waters so they are always at the shallow ends where breeding takes place and when the fish goes to breed, its captured. That’s why the biomass is very low,” Bulega said.

Statistics from the recently conducted biomass study indicate that the Nile perch stocks have dwindled from a record 1.9m tones in 1999 to 370,000metric tones in 2008.

Exports have also dropped by 40% in tonnage and over $50m in value. Lake Kyoga and Albert have been reported not to have any catches.

The sectors rocket speed growth triggered off abusive exploitation of the lakes and increased human activity around the lakes’ catchment areas which caused massive eutrophication of the lakes.

Eutrophication is the enrichment of fresh water bodies by inorganic plant nutrients which occurs as a result of human activity i.e. from fertilizer runoff and sewage discharge.

This increases sediment deposition that eventually raise the level of the lake or river bed, allowing land plants to colonize the edges, and eventually converting the area to dry land.

The fishery resource that was gifted with over 400 species currently has five that are visible. Species like the Bagrus, cat fish, lung fish and mud fish have been pushed to near extinction and others appear once in a while.

“Illegal Unrecorded and Unregulated (IUU) fishing is responsible for all the tribulations this sector and its stakeholders have gone through.

Some of our colleagues have been put under receivership simply because they built factories that failed to get raw material to run,” said one processor who preferred anonymity.

Under the new statutory instrument, transportation of fish in passenger vehicles is regarded illegal and has been banned by the government.

This has been one of the havens through which illegal fish is smuggled to local and regional markets.

Bulega said that in order to keep fish on the menu and maintain exports, fishery resources must be managed in a formal way.

The government was prompted by the processors instituted the self regulation measures to address the illegal fishing methods at the fishermen’s level which is the responsibility of the government.

The districts of Bugiri, Jinja, Busia and Mayuge are known to be engaged in the worst fishing malpractices.

Government to revamp fishing sector

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