By Paul Adude Entebbe — The Minister of Agriculture Animal industry and Fisheries, Mr Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja, has said government is losing a lot of income in the fisheries sector due to continued use of bad or illegal fishing methods.
“Currently Uganda earns about $150m (Shs542b) in exports annually but some time back when all factories were operational, we were earning $400m (Shs1.4 trillion), which I believe if all regulations were in place we could earn double that figure to a tune of $800m (Shs2.8 trillion) annually” he said.
The minister made the remarks while addressing journalists during the pass out ceremony of the second batch of UPDF officers of the Fisheries Protection Force (FPU) at the Fisheries Training Institute in Entebbe.
Mr Ssempijja said there is need to protect the fisheries sub-sector which contributes 3 per cent to the national GDP and 26 per cent to the agriculture sector GDP.
“We used to have up to 23 fish processing plants countrywide but 13 factories have closed due to lack of enough fish supply to justify their existence in the country and were operating below 20 per cent, we no longer get income because some people are using illegal fishing methods,” he added.
He said that the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) is going to fill the law enforcement gap that has hit the fisheries sector since November 2015 following President Museveni’s orders to disband the enforcement bodies.
“We used to have enforcements before like police and the army but they failed to maintain order with some people that were deployed to enforce instead indulging in criminalities. This forced President Museveni to put a stop to their operation until we come up with a better way of enforcing law in the fisheries sector,” he said.
Maj James Nuwagaba the UPDF commanding officer Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU), during the pass out said the newly trained 50 army officers would join the 56 first batch deployed on parts of Lake Victoria, Lake Kyoga and Bwera-Kasese to oversee the enforcement of law around the water bodies in the country.
He further warned business men, citing rally ace Ponsiano Lwakataka, who he described as being a constant trouble, continuously dodging and bribing people along the roads till he reaches the selling market. “Where civilians have failed we shall handle the areas people, like Lwakataka, Asiimwe and Umaru we know them we will deal with them,” he said.
Maj Nuwagaba said that by the April 30, Kalangala District will be cleared of illegal fishing activities and then the Force will monitor those who may want to go back and revive the illegal trade.
Mr Pius Wakabi Kasajja the Agriculture ministry permanent secretary advised the soldiers to avoid getting comprised to join illegalities and work with the community.
“Even though you operate militarily you’re going to work in citizen areas, deal with them using the law like you have been trained, don’t be too fast to pull the trigger because some people will die to taint your image,” he said.