Hoima, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Fisheries Protection Unit-FPU has returned 25 of the more than 60 boat engines that were impounded from fishermen operating on Lake Albert.
The engines were impounded from various landing sites on Lake Albert in the Bunyoro sub-region during operations against illegal fishing gear in August. The operation targeted those with undersized boats, fishing nets, hooks, and monofilament nets among others from the landing sites.
The engines were found tied on undersized boats that are not recommended to carry out fishing on Lake Albert hence leading to their confiscation by the FPU operatives.
Major Richard Mafabi, the Sector Commander who is overseeing the FPU operations on Lake Albert says their decision to return the impounded boat engines to the owners was made after the fishermen vowed never to continue using the illegal fishing gear.
Yosam Tumwebaze, the Hoima Resident District Commissioner-RDC says that the security committee resolved to pardon some of the fishermen and have their engines returned since most of their families had started starving.
He says the engines were returned after thorough verification of documents of ownership.
John Irumba, a fisherman at Bugoma landing site in Kikuube district says he can now resume fishing after receiving his impounded boat engine.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, illegal fishing involves using less than five-inch fishing nets for Tilapia and less than seven-inch fishing nets for Nile Perch. It also entails using fishing boats that are less than 20 feet in length.
It is estimated that Uganda loses USD 430 million from unregulated fishing every year.
To improve regulation and restock the lakes, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni ordered the deployment of FPU personnel on the lakes in 2017.
There are more than 50,000 fishermen on Lake Albert who harvest more than 100,000 tons of fish per year.
Overall, fishing supports the livelihood of more than 1.6 million people in Uganda.
In September alone, FPU impounded and destroyed more than 300,000 pieces of illegal fishing gear countrywide.
The destroyed fishing gear includes boats, monofilament nets, solar batteries, bulbs, hooks, and immature fish among others. They were confiscated from Ntoroko, Butiaba, Namayingo, Kalangala, Serere, Kasese, Jinja, Buvuma, Rukungiri, Kwania, Buyende, Masaka, Kayunga, Mpigi, Buikwe, Apac and Mukono, among others.