By Mnaku Mbani
Dar es Salaam — About a half of fish harvested is wasted in Tanzania, a new study reveals.
This is due to high post-harvest losses caused by the shortage of processors and facilities as well as unreliable markets.
It also highlights increased incidents of illegal fishing, denying government revenue.
It cautions that almost all fishermen conduct their businesses illegally and are undocumented.
Sometimes the fish rot before reaching markets.
Those who fish legally, face storage challenges, causing large quantities of unsold fish to decay.
The study shows that Tanzanians enjoy only 30-50 per cent of quantity of harvested fish for income generation and nutrition.
The National Accounts for 2017 by the National Bureau of Statistics show that fishing accounts for Sh2 trillion to the economy.
This is two per cent of the gross national product.
But the study on economic and financial value of Lake Victoria fisheries shows, fishing contribution might be higher than what had been reported. The pilot study conducted in all three countries sharing the lake has revealed that the financial value of fishing currently reported was about 30-50 per cent of real value of the sector.
The study sampled 666 fishing units, representing 32,175 fishing units. The coordinator of Indian Ocean Commission-SmartFish, which conducted the survey, Dr Sunil Sweenarain, said most previous researches were based on determining stocks but not economic importance.
He cited numerous socio-economic challenges facing fishing communities, cause them to remain poor.
“Estimates have revealed that the value of fishing in Tanzania is about three to five times of what it has been reported,” he told The Citizen last week. He spoke of the need of drawn up a strong policy to fight against illegal fishing and reduce post-harvest losses.
He said even taxation on fishing end up on the middle of the fish value chain but not on the production or processing stages.
Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute director general Rashid Tamatamah agrees that illegal fishing is a major challenge.
‘Illegal fishermen use simple methods but they earn a lot of income while legal ones have no capacity to use modern fishing methods due to higher costs.”
He said the ongoing government efforts in promoting sustainable fishing was necessary to reach out maximised impact of fishing to individual or national economies.
According to Dr Tamatamah, Tanzania is estimated to have 110,000 fishermen — a third of them operating in Lake Victoria.
Mr Horace Onyango, a team leader of Kenyan researchers which conducted the survey, speaks of many fishermen being poor.
“Governments always believe that fishermen are poor and budget allocations to fisheries have remained low,” he said.
He said illegal fishing enriched a few people, leaving the majority of fishermen poor.
Lake Victoria provides 60-70 per cent of total landed catches to Tanzania while employing 100,000 people as boat owners and fishing crews.
A total of 500,000 people in Tanzania are involved in fish processing, trading and agency.