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Uganda Seeks to Boost Fish Output Again

23 September 2009

UGANDA - The government is taking steps to restore the fish sector, which earns significant exports.

Fish has, over the years, been Uganda's second major non-agricultural foreign exchange earner, after coffee, according to All Africa. More than 80 per cent of Uganda's fish for export comes from lakes Victoria, Kyoga, Albert and Edward, with the Nile perch, tilapia and mukene (silver fish) as the largest catch.

Exports rose from about 784 million shillings (UGX) in 1998 to over UGX 284 billion annually in 10 years up to the first quarter of 2008. A growth in the fish exports to regional markets also jumped from UGX 196 million in 1998 to UGX 88 billion over the same period. As a result, the number of processing industries rose from two factories to 18 in the last 10 years, according to Fred Mukisa, the fisheries state minister.

Many people also gained employment in the sector. "In the mid-1980s, there were about 25 fishermen," says Erias Kisuule of Kasenyi landing site. "But now, we have over over 300 employees."

Statistics show that the sector employs 400,000 people. "It also contributes to the livelihood of nearly 1.5 million people," Mr Mukisa says.

Fisheries officials estimate the number of fishing boats at over 17,000 from around 3,000 in the mid-1980s. But latest reports show that while Lake Victoria catches are dwindling, catches from Lake Edward and Lake George have almost stopped.

Fish catches from Lake Kyoga dropped from over 150,000 tonnes in the 1980s to less than 40,000 tonnes now.

Of the original 200 fish species, only five are currently visible, including the Nile perch and tilapia. There is a fear that cat fish, lung fish and mud fish will soon become extinct. Others that are fast disappearing include enkejje.

In a desperate move to revive the dying fisheries sector, All Africa reports that the Government is undertaking reforms, including the screening of fishermen prior to licensing them. The exercise begins this month.

"The number of processing plants, boat owners and people engaged in fishing needs to be ascertained to protect fish from depletion. A consummate number of fishermen will be allowed into the waters, even if it means them fishing in turns."

The Cabinet has approved regulations to enforce the new licensing measures as a new fisheries bill is worked out. It has also approved the closing of fishing areas and protecting fish breeding grounds and nurseries.

The Government will issue fishing vessels with identification plates and certificates of vessel ownership. Everybody involved in fishing will be issued with a fishing identification card.

Registration of people involved in regional fish trade and transport across districts will be undertaken. Those engaged in regional fish trade must obtain a quality and safety certificate for every consignment traded across the border within Uganda.

This will necessitate documents indicating the origin of the fish as well as quality and safety certificates as approved by the law. The Government is also encouraging fish farming as a means of supplementing the deteriorating fish stocks in the natural water bodies.

"We have acquired equipment to produce floating fish feeds," says Mr Mukisa. "We are also going to provide loans for fish farmers." What is left is to institute the new reforms aimed at curbing illicit fishing and reviving the crumbling fisheries sector.

TheFishSite News Desk



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