By Elizabeth Kabibi
National Fisheries Research Institute (NaFIRRI) in partnership with two sister institutes of Kenya and Tanzania conducted a stock monitoring survey in Lake Victoria. The survey which is done annually lasted for 30 consecutive days
The Director NaFIRRI, Dr. Anthony Taabu-Munyaho while addressing members of the press at the Uganda Media Centre on Wednesday said that selected scientists from the three countries traversed the entire lake scanning and counting all the live fish under water using echo-sounders mounted on a big research vessel.
The results of the survey which was conducted from September 8 to October 7, 2017 include: a 30% increase in the quantity of Nile Perch relative to last year’s report, the Haplochromines (Nkeje) were also found to have increased with almost double the biomass recorded in 2016.
The increase in Nile Perch is at 1.12 million tonnes from 0.85 million tones in 2016. Nonetheless, majority of them have remained small in size i.e. less than the minimum length of 50 cm permitted by law for harvest. There is also an upper limit of 85 cm where no one should harvest fish bigger than that as they would be harvesting the mother fish that should be left to produce more fish.
However, the biomass of silver fish ‘Mukene’ has continued to decline in the last four years being at 0.7 million tonnes in 2017 down from 1.39 million tonnes in 2015. Munyaho said that this is likely to be a result of the fact that it is short-lived specie, is easy to target and over harvest, and is prey for the Nile-Perch. On the lighter side, Mukene has a high regeneration and turnover rate, hence recovering quickly.
Tilapia’s (ngege) biomass is not determined using echo-sounders due to their restricted distribution in shore shallow areas but their catch rates are found to have dropped significantly since 2005.
Taabu-Munyaho mentioned some of the key recommendations to ensure a great improvement in the biomass; he pointed out the need for sustained enforcement efforts to ensure continued recovery for Nile perch fish, restricted harvest of Nkejje to sustain Nile perch recover.
To recover mukene, he mentioned the need for restriction of fishing within 2km from the shore and abolishing the use of illegal fish finders, he also talked about the need to protect the breeding zones and diversify into cage fishing.
The Commissioner Fisheries Resources Management, Dr. Edward Rukunya said that to curb fishing related crimes, there has been a fisheries court set up in Kampala to deal with all criminals of illegal fishing, fish poisoning, illegal exportation of fish among others. He further mentioned the intentions to put more fisheries courts in the country especially in areas near the borders.
Fishing in Uganda is ranked number two after coffee for being the largest agricultural foreign exchange earning product. With Tourism in the top position for Uganda’s Foreign Exchange earnings, fish brings in an approximate amount of USD.113m from exporting 17,000 tons annually.
According to Taabu-Munyaho, Uganda’s foreign exchange from fish was highest in 2005 where it earned USD.143M.