By Ali MambuleMasaka — The fishing community at Iambu Landing Site in Masaka District has blamed government for failure to end the persistent illegal fishing methods on Lake Victoria.
Speaking during a meeting between the fishing communities and the Minister for General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister, Ms Mary Karooro Okurut, the fishermen accused government of failing to penalise individuals involved in illegal fishing.
Some fishermen even accused police of escorting vehicles transporting immature fish.
Mr Richard Nsambu, a fisherman at Bukakkata Landing Site, told Ms Okurut that they have seen policemen guarding vehicles carrying immature fish from different landing sites to border posts.
Mr Nsambu said the fishing community is likely to be pushed out of business because of the declining fish stocks as a result of poor fishing methods.
"We no longer have a lake, but rather a water pond without any fish," Mr Nsambu said amidst applause from the gathering. The meeting was a routine interaction commonly known as Baraza, adopted by government in 2009 to get views affecting the community.
The residents also took a swipe at fisheries officers, whom they accused of not doing enough to curb illegal fishing in the area.
"Why should they continue to be paid when their role has been taken over by the army?" Mr Swaibu Mwanje, another fisherman asked.
He also accused the fisheries officers entrusted with fighting against illegal fishing of soliciting bribes from unscrupulous fish dealers and mongers.
"They make calls to their associates who deal in illegal fish asking them to halt their business when they are about to carry out operations in a given area," Mr Mwanje told the minister.
However, the Masaka District fisheries officer, Mr Fredrick Gesa, denied there is connivance between the fisheries department and illegal fish dealers. He supported the government decision to deploy the army to curb illegal fishing.
"We are not idle as they claim. In fact, some of the illegal fish dealers are armed and are supposed to be handled by armed men," Mr Gesa said.
Illegal fishing on Ugandan lakes has caused a reduction in fish stocks, especially in species such as tilapia, Nile perch and sliver fish. Government in 2015, banned Beach Management Units from lake shore regions following reports that they were conniving with fishermen to use illegal fishing methods, gear and trading in immature fish.