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Fishermen on Lake Albert call for halt on operations against illegal fishing gear

Fisheries Protection Unit burn impounded monofilament nets illegally used on Lake Albert. File Photo

Buliisa, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Fishermen operating at various landing sites on the shores of Lake Albert in Bunyoro have asked Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja to intervene and halt the ongoing operation against illegal fishing gear in the area.

The Fisheries Protection Unit-FPU early this month launched an operation against illegal fishing gear on the Lake Albert. Since the operation started, the FPU operatives have burnt more than 2,000 illegal boats and 15,590 monofilament nets impounded and destroyed.

Solomon Wamala, a fisherman at Butiaba landing site in Buliisa wants the office of the prime minister to suspend the operation and give the fishermen time to reorganize themselves from the effects of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the floods that caused the havoc.

Fred Wathum, a fisherman at Bugoigo landing site in Buliisa district explains that as fishermen, they were not consulted and were surprised to see the FPU operatives storming their landing sites and burning their fishing gear.

He says following the operation, they are languishing in poverty since fishing is the only source of their livelihood.

John Tibenda, a fisherman at Kijangi landing site in Hoima district says the FPU operatives conducting the operation are too ruthless and hostile calling upon the office of the prime minister to first put the operation on halt and conduct thorough sensitization among the fishermen on the use of the recommended fishing gear.

Lt. Lauben Ndifula, the spokesperson of the Fisheries Protection Unit-FPU explains that the fishermen were given ample time to reorganize themselves before the operation started.

He says the only alternative is that the fishermen should acquire the recommended fishing gear as required by the law.

Illegal fishing according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries 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.

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.

Over the last 15 years, the fisheries sector has played an important social and economic role in the country as one of the key foreign exchange-earners, contributing 2.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 12 per cent to agricultural GDP.

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