At least 20 fishermen in Kalangala District have been arrested on suspicion of engaging in fish poisoning.
The suspects were arrested on Friday by soldiers from the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) of the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) with illegal fishing gear and a strange substance suspected to be poison.
According to Mr Sunday Kayita, the chairperson of Mazinga Sub-county, the suspects are part of a group that has been engaging in illegal fishing in the area and are not known to the local fishing community.
"Concerned citizens have been giving us information about the illegal fishing activities being carried out by those criminals, but they always eluded arrest," he said during an interview at the weekend.
Mr Muhammad Nsubuga, the southern regional police spokesperson, confirmed the arrests, saying the suspects are currently detained at Nkose Police Station awaiting transfer to Kalangala Central Police Station.
"After processing their files, all suspects will be arraigned in court and charged in accordance with the Fish Amendment Act of 2011," he said.
Mr Shaban Ssekitoleko, the chairperson of the Beach Management Unit at Kachungwa Landing Site on Kalangala Island, said all the suspects came from Entebbe in Wakiso District and they would hide in thick forests in the area.
"They normally engage in fishing during the day and at night they enter forests where they hide their ice containers," he said.
Communities living in and around the shores of Lake Victoria have since December been complaining of the growing number of dead fish, especially Nile Perch, being washed ashore.
The dead fish are not only an eyesore, but also emit an odour as the decomposition occurs.
The reason for the mass deaths of seemingly healthy fish remains unclear, leading to speculation of possible poisoning, limited oxygen or adverse temperatures on Lake Victoria.
This has greatly affected the price of fish both on local and international market.
Currently, the price for Nile Perch has reduced from Shs12,000 per kilogramme to Shs7,000 while Tilapia buys at Shs4500 per kilogramme up from Shs8,000.
Mr Jackson Baguma, the Kalangala District fisheries officer, said the fish that were found dead on the shores are not poisoned but died as a result of limited oxygen in some parts of Lake Victoria.
"We took some samples of the dead fish to the laboratory in Entebbe and the results ruled out poisoning," he said.
Before President Museveni deployed soldiers to curb illegal fishing on lakes in January 2017, there were reports of fishermen using poison to catch fish which was exposing fish consumers to risks of contracting gastric cancer.
Illegal fishing, according to Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries involves using less than five-inch fishing nets for Tilapia and less than seven-inch fishing nets for Nile Perch that results into the harvesting of immature fish that measures less than 11 inch and 20 inch in length, respectively.
It also entails using fishing boats that are less than 20 feet in length and with absence of life jackets.
Source: The Monitor