Uganda’s fishing industry is currently experiencing a low after the heady days when exporters when were making very good cash returns from buyers mostly in the European Union (EU). There was one bad patch when the the EU queried the governments lack of regulatory control over the industry, but after introducing the necessary sanitary and phytosanitary provisions, business recovered. Today however, illegal fishing is decimating stocks writes Samuel Nabwiiso.
Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association (UFPEA) has contested the government reports that fish exports have increased in the financial year ending of 20132014 compared to 20122013.
William Tibyasa the UFPEA Deputy Executive Director said Uganda is still doing badly in fish exports, because of the inadequate fish capture from the major water bodies and government’s failure to curb illegal fishing activities. Immature fish are now openly traded in many regional markets.
“The increment in the earning is not from increased capture of fish from Uganda, but its associated with the stabilized market at the international markets due to the improved quality standard of Uganda’s fish products being exported to the international market by UFPEA members. Everything is going down. That is why fish processing factories are closing down. Where is the increment in fish capture in the country?” he queried.
Exports of Uganda fish have slid from $140 million in 2005 to about $111 million in 2013. Total export tonnage has dropped from close to 40,000 metric tonnes down to about 20,000 during the same period.
Fishermen who spoke to East African BusinessWeek at the Ggaba fish landing site, (Kampala’s main fish market), said stocks have not improved. This has meant many of them have failed to meet their total supplies to fish processing companies.
Ruth Nankabirwa, the state Minister of Agriculture in charge of fisheries, said the closure of some processing plants is not only due to inadequate raw materials. She said some firms had not been complying with the government regulations which prohibits fish processing companies to process immature fish in the country.
She said punitive measures are in place to target those who break the law. In Uganda it is illegal to harvest fish especially Nile perch which is below the size of 20 inches (50 cm). Fish is measured in inches at landings. Those that are above 80 inches (200 cm) are considered the breeding mothers which should not be tempered with either.
“As fishermen we are still doing badly especially in the capture of both Tilapia and Nile perch, because the fish capture has not improved as the government claims because of the increased illegal fishing on the water bodies. That is why our clients are being forced to abandoned fish processing in the country” one the fisherman said to East African Business week.
Nankabirwa said, “Many Ugandans have been attacking Government for giving private people licenses to carry out cage fish farming mainly on Lake Victoria, but as Minister responsible for fisheries resources in the country. I will continue giving away licenses to all those interested in cage fish farming. This is the only way to reduce pressure from fish depletion on the water bodies,” she said.
Tibyasa blamed the poor performance of the country’s regional fish trade on the increasing sales of undersized fish.
He said the value of informal regional trade in fish has increased from $38.4million in 2005 to peak of $56.4million in 2008 but again decreased to $33.1million from a quantity of about 21,000 metric tonnes in 2013.
“21,000 metric tonnes of dried immature fish which fetched $33.1million would have yielded 70,000 tonnes as mature fresh fish and if exported in the international trade market and would have realized $429.6million. To avert this the government needs to strengthen its security monitoring at all regional borders to ensure that the sale of immature fish business does not grow,” he said.
Processing utilisation is below 20% in some factories, but the scarcity of the Nile perch which is the main source of raw materials has caused the most problems for exporters.
Walimi Fish Farmers’ Cooperative Society (WAFICOS) also questioned the government figures on the number of fish ponds and its productivity capacity.
Canorous Kwiri, the coordinator of WAFICOS said the majority of the fish ponds which were dug across the country are not functioning because of the many challenges associated with fish farming in the country
“The ponds are there, but with no fish. In fact some are acting as water reservoirs especially in the North,” he said.
As part of the recommendations in the review report the government promised to intensify efforts to increase production of fish at farm level through promotion of commercial aquaculture.
The government also disclosed that they are planning to procure more Vessel Identification number plates to control fishing capacity on all major water bodies.
‘There is need to procure more VIPs in the financial year 20142015. A total of 27,971 VIPs will be procured for Lake Victoria 10,998 for Lake Kyoga and 19,925 for lake Albert to cover all major water bodies. This will control access to lakes for the fishermen,’ reads part of the sector performing report.
Source : East African Business Week