• Fri Nov 13 2020
  • Fish shortage hits country as market demand surges

Scientists argue that eating fish may prevent one from suffering a heart attack or stroke.
Betty Amamukiror
Journalist @ New vision
Scientists argue that eating fish may prevent one from suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Uganda's waters are not producing enough fish to meet the local and international demand, Dr Edward Rukuuya, the director in charge of fisheries resource management, has said.

He told New Vision on Wednesday 11 that the development has made Ugandans unable to eat enough fish to meet the recommended yearly quantities.

He noted that on average, a person is required to eat 17.2kg of fish per year, but Ugandans have only been able to eat on average between 8kg and 10kg per year.

"All this comes from the fact that the population has increased and the fish production has not increased to match the increasing population. We have a lot to do to increase our production and productivity," he said.

The world per-capita fish consumption reached a record high of 20kg per capita in 2014.

In 2010, the sub-Saharan Africa fi sh per-capita consumption averaged 17.2kg but has declined to an average of 5.6kg per capita per annum.

Rukuuya noted that this is an indication that the demand for fish in the next decade will rise drastically.

He, therefore, called for investments in fish production and post-harvest handling. Fish is an important source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential in keeping the heart and brain health.

Scientists argue that eating fish may prevent one from suffering a heart attack or stroke.

However, Rukuuya, while reading minister of state for fisheries, Hellen Adoa's statement at the Uganda Media Centre said, even with almost 20% of its surface area covered by fresh waters, Uganda has underperformed in fish production.

The country, with its five major lakes and over 160 minor lakes, rivers, wetlands, water reservoirs, valley dams and ponds, has the potential to generate over 1,000,000 metric tonnes of fish every year, but Rukuuya said it is only producing 594,000 metric tonnes from capture fisheries and 120,000 from aquaculture, every year.

CHALLENGES AND PLANS

"The major challenge we are having is the increase in population, whereby everyone wants to go to the lake to fish yet the lake cannot accommodate all of them. This has led to continued illegal fishing using destructive gear, which captures immature fish," he said.

He added that they are constrained by limited investment in fish farming, high cost of production and limited access to high-quality fish seed and feed to stimulate aquaculture production.

Adoa noted that both capture and aquaculture production systems face challenges of high post-harvest losses, inadequate human, technological and infrastructural capacity at all stages of the value chain, leading to low production and productivity.

She stated that if these challenges are resolved, the country will harvest, export and earn more.

"If Uganda exported just a third of the projected annual potential at a price of $4.1 per kilo, it would add $2.1b per annum to the National Gross Domestic Product. "This would be higher than all non-oil Ugandan exports combined and would lead us to our vision of a ‘modern, productive, profitable and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture sub-sector," she said.

Rukuuya said as part of the solution, they are submitting the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill to Parliament this month, for debate.

He said the fisheries ministry has been managing the fisheries resources using an outdated act yet so much, including technology, population and fish species structure, have changed.

The Bill, therefore, advances issues of aquaculture development and management, provides for strong regulation and quality assurance in the fisheries sub-sector, strong penalties to ensure compliance, and clearly defines each stakeholder's role in the subsector.

ADVERTISEMENT