Mwanza — OVER two hundred tonnes of illegal fishing nets valued at 2bn/- have been destroyed by a taskforce formed by the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries to curb illegal fishing in Lake Victoria through an operation codenamed 'Sangara'.
The ministry permanent secretary (responsible for fisheries), Dr Yohana Budeba, oversaw the confiscation and destruction of (the prohibited) fishing gear seized from separate warehouses within Mwanza City. The government is said to have collected over 5bn/- in fines from fishermen and traders allegedly caught with the illegal gear and others arrested on allegations of smuggling fish and its products to neighbouring countries.
Addressing the fishing community at the Buhongwa dumpsite on the outskirts of Mwanza, Dr Budeba said the government move on illegal fishing does not aim at hurting small-scale fishermen and traders but rather ensuring sustainability of fish resources in the lake. "We want to create sustainability of resources in the lake for the betterment of current and future generations," he observed, stressing that the taskforce would continue maintaining its operations "until illegal fishing and smuggling of fish resources in the lake is tamed." Dr Budeba warned of severe legal actions against manufacturers and traders of the illegal fishing gears, stressing that the government will revoke their operating licences.
"The resources in the lake belong to the people; government leaders are obliged to protect the resources for benefit of the majority," he explained. Quoting data obtained through a research by the Tanzania Fishery Research Institute (TAFIRI) conducted last year on victoria perch (sangara), Dr Budeba said only three per cent of the specie measuring 50 centimetres and above in the lake are allowed to be fished.
Findings of the research found out that 96.6 per cent of the specie was below 50 centimetres and hence not allowed to be fished, there are also 0.4 per cent of specie measuring over 85 centimetres but are not allowed to be fished since they are breeders. The Acting Director for Department of Fishery Development, Ms Fatma Sobo, said the department has been enforcing Fishery Act number 22 of 2003 and its regulations of 2009 as well as other laws on environment to curb illegal fishing in the country.
Speaking at the same occasion, the Nyamagana District Commissioner (DC), Ms Mary Tesha said the district authorities join hands with other state organs to restrain illegal fishing in the lake, calling on the public to report to responsible authorities all individuals implicated in the vice.
On its part, the fishing community pleaded with Dr Budeba to communicate with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to act on continued manufacturing of the so-called illegal fishing gear otherwise legally sold to fishermen.
Officials with the ministry and the team members of the taskforce have conducted operations against smuggling and illegal fishing in inland water bodies and the Indian Ocean with the Minister responsible for the docket, Mr Luhaga Mpina, warning that the operations are there to stay