Dar es Salaam — The annual contribution of the fishing industry to Tanzania’s economy has been estimated at nearly Sh10 trillion, but only if appropriate measures are taken to fully harness the sector’s value chain.
Currently, fishing contributes only about Sh2 trillion to the GDP, a measly two per cent of the economy, but this could easily go up by fivefold in real terms.
Increased illegal fishing, which is usually undocumented and untaxed, as well as post-harvest losses that are estimated to be up to 70 per cent, have been identified as major challenges that play havoc with the sector.
According to the findings of a study on the economic and financial value of Lake Victoria fisheries, which was conducted in the three East African Community member countries of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, fishing has the potential to hugely contribute to the economies of those countries. But the sector must be properly organised and managed in the first place.
The coordinator of a programme for the implementation of a Regional Fisheries Strategy for the Eastern and Southern Africa (Indian Ocean), Mr Sunil Sweenarain, says the lack of proper policy interventions has led to impoverishment of fishermen in the region, as well as lower levels of fisheries contribution to the regional economies. Mr Sweenarain also noted that post-harvest losses in fisheries are rather high, at up to 70 per cent, whereby most of the harvested fish go to waste.
Financed by the European Union, the study was conducted by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) Smartfish and Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation.
Also highlighted are intermediate consumption; employment opportunities created; income distribution and total investments.
Furthermore, the study has revealed that most of the data on fisheries that is provided only targets income from exported commodities while the economic importance of the sector goes missing.
Speaking to The Citizen in an exclusive interview in Dar es Salaam, Mr Sweenarain said, “The full economic value of the fisheries in Lake Victoria has never been realised. Lake Victoria fishery is a promising sector – not just fishing for subsistence.”
For his part, the director of the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (Tafiri), Dr Rashid Tamatamah, said the IOC study targeted the economy of a single fisherman and the whole value chain of fisheries.
Noting that the study reveals that most of the illegal fish harvests were more profitable than legal fishing, Dr Tamatamah said this consequently attracts more people to involve themselves in the illegal fishing business.
“Illegal fishing generates huge incomes, and only needs lower investments, while legal fishing is capital-intensive. This encourages more illegal fishing in the lake,” he said, adding that a solution to end illegal fishing must be found sooner than later.
According to Dr Tamatamah, an estimated four million Tanzanians countrywide depend on the fishing business for a living, with about 110,000 of them carrying out fishing activities in Lake Victoria.
Commenting on the matter, the research team leader from Kenya, Mr Horance Onyango, said the East African Community governments miserably failed to gainfully exploit the potentials of the fishing industry, partly because they believe fishing is for the poor. He added that government budget allocations for the fisheries sector are usually too low to create a major impact on transforming the sector.
Mr Onyango also said that the regional governments must continue to promote legal fishing activities if they are to increase public revenues from the fishing industry.
For his part, the director of Fisheries Resources Monitoring and Research, Lake Victoria Fisheries, Mr Robert Kayanda, said the study has provided crucial information that will help in formulating appropriate adaptation strategies that are designed to maximise effective utilisation of the Lake Victoria fisheries resources.