Fishing on Lake Albert: Congolese fishermen get back confiscated fishing gear

The fishing gear were impounded in an operation aimed at protecting Lake Albert's fish resources.

BULIISA, July 5, 2024: Congolese fishermen whose fishing gears were impounded by the UPDF Fisheries Protection Unity [FPU] have a reason to smile after government returned their fishing gear.

Major   Frank Kanzira, Operation Officer FPU who was representing Commanding   Officer FPU Lt. Col. Marcy Tukahirwa handed over the fishing gear to DR Congo officials on behalf of the fishermen at a function held at Butiaba landing site in Butiaba town council, Buliisa district on Wednesday.

Kanzira said that the fishing gear which included 30 boat engines, 28 boats, fuel tanks, and fuel cables were impounded in an operation that was conducted on the waters of Lake Albert two months ago.

He noted the fishing gear were impounded in an operation aimed at protecting Lake Albert’s fish resources, adding the fishing gear were impounded from the Congolese found fishing on the Ugandan side of the lake.

He noted that talks were held between the Ugandan and Congolese governments before a decision was taken to return the fishing gear to the Congolese, adding that the initiative is part of the commitment by Uganda to improve its relationships with its neighbours.

Kanzira who is also head of operations at FPU at Butiaba Detach cautioned Congolese fishermen to desist from being involved in illegal fishing that would lead them into trouble.

However, he challenged the Congolese government to sensitise their fishermen to respect the water boundaries of Uganda.

“DRC government should engage their fishermen to respect the water bodies of Uganda, to respect the laws of Uganda that if they cross to Ugandan waters, for us we shall not spare them, we shall arrest them as the law says and put them in jail but this is the last warning to them,” he said.

While receiving the confiscated items on behalf of the Congolese government, Robert Agenonga, Mahagi Member of Parliament in Ituri Province commended the Ugandan government for releasing the fishing gear belonging to the Congolese.

He noted that the gesture from the Ugandan government shows there is a good relationship between the two governments and that the DRC government will continue engaging their fishermen to ensure that they respect the Ugandan waters.

“We are here to receive the fishing gears that were impounded from our fishermen on Ugandan waters by Ugandan authorities. For me as a Member of parliament, I think this is the first step of both governments collaborating to sustainably manage our Lake resources,” he said.

Longino Bahebwa, Buliisa Resident District Commissioner who presided over the function cautioned Congolese fishermen against dealing with conmen who extort money from them deceiving that they will connect them to Ugandan officials to get back their fishing gear.

John Ochani, one of the fishermen, expressed excitement about the return of his boats and appealed that such a relationship between Ugandan and DR Congo should continue.

He said the return of his fishing gear was a big relief to him, adding that since the impounding of his fishing gear, his family had lost their livelihood.

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