SERERE – The Uganda People’s Defence Force Fisheries Protection Unit [FPU] at Kagwara landing site in Serere district has burnt over 6,678 pieces of illegal fishing gear that were impounded during a three-month operation on Lake Kyoga.
The illegal fishing gear, estimated to cost Shs 600 million were comprised 4,725 pieces of monofilament nets, 1800 pieces of undersize gill nets, 106 boat seins, 20 small boats, 08 cast nets 05 tycoons, and one mosquito net.
They were burnt on Monday in the presence of the district leaders led by Serere resident district commissioner, Emmanuel Okot, marine police, chairpersons of the fish management protection units, and fishermen.
CLP. James Okwaret, the UPD Fisheries Protection Unit commander in charge Lake Kyoga said the illegal fishing gear were impounded in the districts of Serere, Kalaki, Kaberamaido, and Soroti and burnt after courting granting permission.
“After keeping these illegal fishing gear in our stores, we wrote to court for advice on what to do with them and court advised us to destroy them. So we decided to invite the district leadership to come and witnesses the burning of these gear,” he said.
He explained that the operations to crackdown on illegal fishing are ongoing as directed by President Museveni.
”Last year, the president directed the registration and licensing of fishermen with the aim of cracking down rampant illegal fishing activities in all the water bodies across the country, but some several fishermen chose not to comply and they have continued to use illegal fishing gears,” said Okwaret.
The recommended size of a boat on Lake Kyoga is 28, but the fishermen still use small canoes, which are too old in nature and cannot sustain strong winds.
“Majority of illegal fishing boats are small and old. When strong winds begin to blow, chances of the occupants surviving are minimal, the reason why some of them drown.
According to Okwaret, the defiant fishermen hide the small boats in corners that FPU teams cannot reach while some keep them under the waters and only pick them for fishing.
He added: “Some fish at night while some go during daytime because we can’t be everywhere at all times. Even when unlucky fishermen drown on the Lake, we are not informed as their relatives secretly retrieve their bodies and hurry to bury,” said Okwaret.
Benard Odikor, the LCIII chairperson Kagwara town council blamed the increasing cases of illegal fishing on the growing population around the fishing villages who are lacking other employment opportunities.
However, he said they were working hand in hand with FPU to eliminate illegal fishing.
“Fighting illegal fishing has remained a challenge because some local authorities on the landing sites fear to report the culprits,” he said.
Samuel Opio, one of the fishermen from Akwangalet village faulted government for taking long without issuing them with licenses even after several weeks after paying for them.
“I paid Shs150, 000 for registration and licence in September, last year but up-to-date I haven’t received a license,” Opio said.
Stephen Ochola, the Serere district LCV Chairperson commended FPU for the operations saying that because of this there has been an increase in the breeding of fish on the Lake.
He also asked the boat owners to keep copies of their payment slips, which the fisheries unit can rely on to confirm that they are operating legally.
On his part, the Serere RDC Emmanuel Okot asked defiant fishermen to opt for other occupation if they cannot follow the set guidelines.
“If you cannot a bid by the set guidelines, you better find another because your days are numbered and you can regret if they find you involved in illegal fishing,” Okot warned.
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