By Bernard Lugongo in Mwanza
GOOD news from fish sellers in Mwanza: Illegal fishing has declined since the government tightened its noose on such practices. Vice-President Samia Suluhu late last year ordered Mwanza Region authorities to strengthen security patrols against illegal fishing in Lake Victoria, the largest in Africa.
She noted that illegal fishing, especially of Nile perch, was not only depleting the lake of fish, but it was also destroying breeding grounds for the fish and denying processing plants of raw materials.
A 2012 study by Smart- Fish said the decline of Nile perch stocks suggest that fisheries departments in all the three countries of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda sharing Lake Victoria were allowing illegal fishing, unreported and unregulated fishing to continue thriving unabated.
Total content of Nile perch biomass in Lake Victoria decreased to 92 per cent of total biomass in 1999 and went to its lowest recorded estimate of 14.9 per cent of total biomass in 2008. As of 2010, the Nile perch biomass was estimated at 18 percent of total biomass in Lake Victoria.
Now the traders are bragging that they sell quality fish as a result of the ban on illegal fishing, noting that they too effectively play key role in fighting the illegal fishing in the Lake of Victoria.
Through their association, they told the ‘Daily News’ that since the campaign strengthened, they now realise that things have changed starting from the fishermen who many of them have abandoned unlawful fishing in the Lake.
Spokesperson of the fish sellers at Kamanga fish market in Mwanza, Charles Kabyemela, said apart from impounding fishing tools used to fish illegally in the Lake, awareness among the fishermen have helped in addressing the challenge.
As a result, according to him, the fish sold at the market are of high quality. This could also be good news for the businesspeople who thought of exporting fish as the city will host the Business Forum to be held on Tuesday next week at which business stakeholders will share experiences.
Late last year, the government announced its plan to amend laws governing the fisheries sector by changing some offences to economic sabotage, which attracts stiffer penalties.
Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Minister Dr Charles Tizeba said the current fisheries laws and regulations have loopholes that hamper effective prosecution of people caught practicing illegal fishing.
Currently, if people are caught and charged, the penalty is either six-month prison sentence or a fine of only Sh 200, 000.