Experts Call for Regional Effort to Save Fish Sector

The song of dwindling fish stocks in Uganda’s waters is as common as the national anthem at every fishing or fisheries conference held in the country. And the inaction from the fisheries authorities to deal with the problem has been around for far too long.

Only until recently when the former state minister of Fisheries, Ruth Nankabirwa, said government was looking for private investors to develop cage fishing on Lake Victoria did the country appear that it was moving to save the industry.

With depleting fish stocks, aquaculture is considered as the only sustainable form of fish production. However, participants at the recent Indian Ocean Commission SmartFish trade exhibition, held in Entebbe, unanimously called on Africa not to be too quick to implement the strategy without developing the policies and information first.

After all, a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) fisheries subcommittee that met in New Delhi in 2006 highlighted information as one of the five big constraints to boosting fish stocks.

The future of aquaculture in sub-Saharan Africa is considered to be on the high with “bright sparks” in Nigeria, Ghana and Zimbabwe, who are heavily engaged in commercial cage culture farming. Zambia and Uganda are considered not too far behind, whereas Tanzania, Madagascar and Mozambique are engaged in growing seaweeds.

Dr Rhoda Tumwebaze, the director fisheries management and development officer at Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LVFO) – an organization mandated to coordinate management and development of fisheries and aquaculture in the East Africa (EAC) region – lamented at the lack of regional aquaculture policy and regulatory framework.

INFORMATION IS KEY

The developed world considers information a key resource in identifying market linkages and a pillar in qualitative and quantitative production.

Gerry McCollum of Aquafeeds in Zimbabwe says it is important for farmers to be equipped with the simplest of knowledge such as knowing the fact that despite feeding from water, fish like warm pellets, which is significant in the final stock production. Also, just like humans, McCollum says, fish also need a balanced diet feed.

A participant from Kenya reading some of the information booklets provided at the conference

Experts from Ranaan Fish Feed Ltd, a company from Israel that set up a production plant in Ghana to supply the West African market, said “most fish farmers in Uganda don’t invest in fish feeds but, rather, leave the fish to feed in the ‘wild’ on their own.”

For now, the insatiable fish markets from Tanzania, Rwanda, DRC and South Sudan may not mind about the quality but if farmers are to seek for global markets, quality production is key.

Theo Hoorntje, the head of cooperation at the EU Delegation to Uganda, said only inclusive growth through value chains can make the region’s aquaculture grow.

“People doing the same job with the same objectives results in improved results and performance,” he said.

Hoorntje announced a further funding for the Smart Fish programme with an additional 16 million euros for the next three and a half years.

Source : The Observer

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