Hon Hellen Adoa, the State Minister for Fisheries, has advised members of parliament from fishing constituencies to rally their colleagues to pass the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill as well as support the efforts of the Fisheries Protection Units (FPUs) to safeguard Uganda’s white gold.
Hon Adoa made the call during a discussion with MPs and other fisheries stakeholders on the state of Uganda’s fisheries sub-sector and the role of leaders in its development at the Aquaculture Research and Development Centre in Kajjansi, Wakiso on August 23, 2021.
There are 13 fish processing plants around Lake Victoria and the fisheries sub-sector is one of the top foreign exchange earners for Uganda, raking in at least $175 million (Shs 630bn) in 2019 and a source of livelihood to over five million Ugandans. The sector also accounts for 3% of the national GDP and 12% of the agricultural GDP.
In spite of the impressive figures, it was noted that the sub-sector has not reached its optimal potential due to unsustainable funding mechanisms, inadequate human resources and a weak legislative framework as well as illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
“In 2018, the sub-sector got a new policy that, once implemented, will address the challenges. What is left is the hastened passing of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill to operationalize the policy,” Hon Adoa said.
The law today provides for fisheries management activities to control, license, limit size and type of fishing gear and gazette of fish breeding areas. However, enforcement of these measures remains a challenge to stakeholders, leading to the less-than-optimal performance of the sub-sector.
While presenting the fisheries status and management, Ms Joyce Ikwaput Nyeko, the acting Director Fisheries Resources, emphasized that development of strong laws with deterrent measures will promote sustainability. She added that there is need to demarcate marine parks and fish breeding areas to ensure good health of the waters.
During interactions, MPs decried the highhandedness of FPU officers and the unfairness of having foreigners work freely on the lake while Ugandan fishers are unable to reap from their traditional sources of income.
In response, Lt Col Dick Kaija, the FPU commander, asked the leaders to work hand in hand with his officers for the betterment of the sector and community livelihoods.
“We need total support from political leaders to say no to illegal fishing. Political leaders not only have the onus to educate fishing communities about their rights but also conservation as their obligation,” he said.
Lt Col Kaija also called for the increase of the enforcement budget, particularly in the protection of the young Nile perch.
“We need to create fishing holidays and also harmonize the fish maw tax with other East African Community member states to avoid smuggling of product.”
While closing the meeting, Hon Adoa advised all stakeholders to work collaboratively.
“Some of the MPs are not on good terms with the RDCs, District Fisheries Officers and DPCs; so, it becomes difficult to build fisheries committees in counties. For a start, I request you to utilize the seven-member fisheries management committee on every landing site,” she said.
“I request you as area MPs to interest yourselves and meet those people on the ground.”