The government of Uganda has issued new stringent fishing measures that include deployment of the Fisheries Police Unit (FPU) at all border points to check on entry of illegal gears and exit of immature fish among others.
The Minister of State for Fisheries, Hellen Adoa told reporters at the Uganda Media Centre that the measures were decided in a meeting held at the Directorate of Fisheries Resources attended by Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association (UFPEA), Association of Fishers and Lake Users (AFALU), Commander Fisheries Protection Unit; Fisheries Technical Staff.
Adoa said during the period of November 2015 to February 201 7, there was a sharp increase in fishing illegalities leading to decline in fish catches.
“The supply of fish to the factories declined from 29,544 tons in 2015 to 19,447 tons in 2016,” she said.
However, she said there was increase in 2017 following deployment of the FPU to 23,41.5 tons, then 41,324 in 2018 and 57,409.6 tons in 2019.
“There was noticeable recovery of Nile perch stocks in the Lake and this led to reopening of some of the factories that had closed with a number of operating factories increasing from 6 in 2016 to 12 in 2019,” she said.
Due to the calamities witnessed in 2020 (Covid-19 pandemic and flooding) the catches again declined leading to decline of fish going to factories to 30,465.6 tons in 2020 and by June 2021, the factories were only able to access 8,000 tons.
Adoa said the drastic decline is threatening the closure of all the factories since they are now operating at less than 10% installed capacity.
Below are the new measures taken.
All small boats below 28ft to leave the lake immediately;
All Mukene fishers to use nets of mesh size 10 mm and above and a maximum of 7 panels of 2×100 meters with a maximum of 4 lights.
All Nile perch fishers must use Gillnets of a maximum of 3 panels (78 meshes and 90 meters.
All those dealing in fish maw trade must obtain it from designated points (fish factories and landing sites.
For fish left for domestic consumption at the landing site and that destined for local market, all Nile perch must be gutted only at designated points within the landing site by a licensed person and fish maws extracted should be sold only to registered approved facilities.
Those having fish maw licenses for trading and processing must not engage in fish gutting at landing site.
All fish maw leaving the landing site must be accompanied with a Fish Movement Permit indicating the landing of origin, the quantity and destination processing facility.
All fish smoking must be done at the landing site within a designated area by licensed artisanal fish processors.
FPU to deploy at all border points to check on entry of illegal gears and exit of immature fish.
All fish on transit should be checked at the border point by the Fisheries Inspectors and URA should not seal the containers before they are inspected.
“Failure to follow the above guidelines, the Minister in charge of fisheries will have no option but to close the lake for 3 months starting in December 2021,” Adoa said.