What you need to know:
- Mr Joseph Lukwago, the vice chairperson of Association of Fishers and Lake Users of Uganda, says if the ministry maintains the deadline, many fishermen would be locked out because they currently lack money.
The fishing community has asked the Agriculture ministry to give them a six-month grace period to clear their annual licence fees.
The ministry has already set March 31 as the deadline for issuing new licences. Non-compliant fishermen risk being denied access to the water bodies.
Registration and licensing of fishers is intended to regulate fishing and avert depletion as a result of illegal fishing methods.
According to Mr Joseph Lukwago, the vice chairperson of Association of Fishers and Lake Users of Uganda (AFALU), if the ministry maintains the deadline, many fishermen would be locked out because they currently lack money.
“Our sector is currently doing badly due to the dwindling fish stocks and the little money [is being used] to take their children back to school. So, it is on this basis that we request for an extension of the deadline to allow all our members to get money and pay for the licence,” he said in an interview on Monday.
Mr Lukwago said the exercise has in the past years been marred by irregularities and some members of AFALU, who paid money have not been issued with licences.
“I think there is a need to investigate some of the fisheries officers right from the ministry and those operating at district level,” he added.
Ms Harriet Asara, a woman dealing in silver fish (Mukene) in Njeru Municipality in Buikwe District, said there is high corruption in the industry which needs to be checked.
She claims she applied for a number plate for her boat and a licence in 2021, but she has not yet got them.
“Fisheries officers have come here demanding payment of operational licence for this year yet they have not come out with an explanation why a good number of fishers have not received their licences for two years,” she said.
Mr Johnson Tabule, the chairperson of Owen Landing Site, which has a total of about 30 fishermen, said he has heard about the deadline, adding that the fisheries officers, however, take blame for not issuing licences in time.
“We are not opposed to paying licences, but the whole licensing process needs to be streamlined. If we say we don’t have money, they should listen and give us more time to look for it,” Mr Tabule said.
Mr Emmanuel Mange, the chairperson of Nile Landing Site Njeru in Buikwe District, said: “They came here (Fishing licensing officers ) informing us of their plans to arrest those operating without licences,we told them the same thing [extending the grace period] and we thought they had agreed.”
A fisherman dealing in Mukene pays a licence of Shs200,000 and each of his employees pays Shs25,000 while one fishing Nile perch with hooks, nets pays shs150,000 annually .
Mr Jimmy Atyang, the assistant commissioner for Fisheries Control, Regulation and Quality Assurance, said the fishers were given three months (January to March) to renew their licences and those who fail to beat the deadline will be handled individually.
“Every fisherman will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, if our records show that you have been paying promptly and now you don’t have money for one reason or another, we can allow you more time to look for the money, but I don’t think there will be a blanket extension of the deadline as they are requesting,” he said.
re ministry indicate that 14,600 boats have so far been registered on Lake Victoria, of which 9,306 are licensed, accounting for 64 percent of the registered boats.
On Lake Kyoga, 5,515 boats are licensed of the 6,550 registered, while on Lake Albert, only 1,625 boats are licensed of the 5,075 registered.
Only 552 boats (47.9 percent) of the 1,153 registered on minor lakes such as Edward and George have been licensed.
The first attempt by the government to register fishermen and boat owners was in 2011, but the programme stalled after the government failed to secure funds.