Government’s failure to clearly give fishermen some shares is among the reasons leading to the depletion of water resources.
The past laws have always been developed without involving fishermen. As a result, water resources have been depleted due to irresponsible fishing.
This if done will reduce immature fishing and increase the population of fish.
In other countries such as Cambodia, Philippines, Thailand and Brazil, the fishermen are given some shares of the water resources. Due to this, they guard against its depletion.
Mr Seremos Kamutwaki, executive director Uganda Fisheries and Fish Conservation Association during a private sector consultative meeting on Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill 2018 in Kampala last week, said: “The fishermen feel left out of the law especially on the issue of ownership. This is why they are not compliant to protecting the resources.”
Once they become responsible they will start respecting government regulations and the cost of enforcement will reduce.
He said while the fish policy is being designed, it should promote ownership so that the fishermen can know that water bodies are their resource and they should guard against its misuse.
Lakes, rivers and swamps account for 44,000 Km2 of Uganda’s surface area of 241,000 Km2.
For several decades, the management and development of the fisheries resources in Uganda is guided by the Fisheries Act Cap 197 of 1964.
Since 1990’s, the fish industry in Uganda has evolved over time becoming the second non-traditional export earner for the country and employing over 1.3 million people directly.
Despite evolving, the legal instrument remains very outdated and cannot effectively guide sustainable management of the sector. This gap created avenues for fishing illegalities on Uganda’s lakes that resulted into a sharp decline in fish stocks.
Following the Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy approval by Cabinet in January 2018, Uganda Fish Processors & Exporters Association (UFPEA) received support from GIZ to review the Draft Fisheries & Aquaculture Bill 2018.
The bill was first drafted in 2004. Over a decade later, many things have changed in the fisheries sector staring from the lake to the end of the value chain.
Most of the fish factories closed down due to the scarcity of the raw material.
Records from Bank of Uganda show that in the last three years, both volume and value have increased.
In 2015, the country exported a total of 18,408 metric tonnes of fish valued at $117.5m (Shs446.5b).
The following year 2016, a total 19,546 tonnes worth $121.8m (Shs462.8b) were exported.
The chairman Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association, Mr Sujal Goswami, said: “Most of the illegalities happened due to weak laws. As the private sector, we are the most affected. It is for this reason that we requested for support from GiZ to review this Bill before it is passed.”
Ms Ovia Matovu, the chief executive officer Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association, said: “The law should also involve aquaculture because it is an infant sector that should be promoted.”