Leaders, fishermen fight over fishing ban

Fishermen at Butebi Landing Site in Mityana District. The district leadership announced that it will enforce the fishing ban effective June 1 to allow the fish stock in the lake to replenish. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • According to a report by the Fish Stock Assessment Team, which was commissioned by National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI) in 2012, Lake Wamala has 26 gazetted landing sites and about 600 fishermen with a similar number of boats.

Fishermen on Lake Wamala have protested a move by Mityana District leadership to enforce a six-month fishing holiday on the lake.

Last month, the district leadership announced that it will enforce the fishing ban effective June 1 to allow the fish stock in the lake to replenish.

According to Mr Yasin Bbira, the district natural resources officer, fish in Lake Wamala has drastically reduced in the past 10 years, leaving fishermen and dealers unemployed.

But fishermen led by Mr Ernest Kanyansali, 60, a resident of Katakala Village in Mityana Municipality, said there is no clear plan by the government on how they will survive without fishing.

“I have been fishing for 43 years and like other fishermen, that lake is our only source of livelihood. Where will we get money to fend for our families during the six months when the lake becomes a no go area?”  he said during an interview on Sunday

Mr Kanyansali said many fishermen in the area are currently servicing bank loans they obtained to acquire standard boats and nets. He said the district leaders announced their plan to seal off the lake before consulting them.

“Soldiers under the Fisheries Protection Unit together with staff from the district fisheries department came to us and claimed that we were using illegal fishing gear. We were forced to acquire loans from  banking institutions  to buy recommended gear , we have just started paying back the loans and  they are telling us that they’re closing the lake, is that fair ?” he wondered.

One five –inch fishing net recommended by the government goes for Shs5m, and Mr Kanyansali said each fisherman needs at least five of them.

“It’s true the fish stocks have dwindled and this should be blamed on the authorities who have failed to do their work. They are very corrupt and whenever they carry out operations on the lake and arrest those engaging in illegal fishing, they release them a few hours after giving them money,” he added.

Mr Honest Bbaale, the chairperson of Katiko Landing Site, said he is worried that insecurity is going to rise if the district leadership goes ahead and enforces the fishing ban without providing food or an alternative source of income to fishermen.

“Let them [district leadership] first convince government to provide free maize flour and beans to fishermen for six months. Enforcing the fishing ban will be difficult if the issue of food is not addressed and it will cause us problems here,” he said.

But Mr Bbira insisted they will enforce the fishing holiday as planned . “We are going to do what is good for them, they will thank us later . We get revenue as a district, but it is the fishermen who benefit more from that lake,” he said.

Background

According to a report by the Fish Stock Assessment Team, which was commissioned by National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI) in 2012, Lake Wamala has 26 gazetted landing sites and about 600 fishermen with a similar number of boats.

A total of 16 landing sites are in Mityana, while Gomba and Kassanda have five landing sites each. However, the report states that the lake has poor socio-economic infrastructure compared to other lakes probably due to its geo-morphological properties. Available records indicate that fishermen mainly use gillnets targeting Tilapia (Ngege) and long line hooks which trap Mamba (protperus) and Male (Clarias).

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