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Govt decries immature fish on local market, calls for sustainable harvesting of mukene

KAMPALA, February 13, 2024 - Government is concerned about immature fish entering the country through Elegu border in Amuru district. Elegu border is shared between Uganda and South Sudan.

This was revealed on Tuesday by the Minister of State for Fisheries, Hellen Adoa while addressing a press conference at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala on matters concerning the fisheries industry in Uganda. The fisheries industry in Uganda falls under the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries [MAAIF].

“The Ministry [MAAIF] has noted the increase in immature fish entering the country through Elegu border. This is a vice that must be addressed,” she said.

To arrest the bad habit of trading in immature fish, Adoa said they would work together with the South Sudanese government.

“The Ministry will work together with the Government of South Sudan to harmonise this trade so that it does not destroy the fish stocks in the region. The Ministry regrets all the inconveniences that were caused to the traders at Elegu border,” she added.

Minister Adoa said there is also a marked increase in the use of illegal fishing gear and methods among the fishing community in the country. Gears such as monofilament nets, undersized gillnets, and illegal methods such as “hurry up”, cast netting, use of beach, and boat seines are too rampant, she said.

Concerns on silverfish [mukene]

According to Adoa, MAAIF has gotten information that there is rampant use of a new technology [hurry up] in the harvesting of small pelagics like silverfish, which she said is illegal.

“I wish to inform the general public and the fishing community that this is an illegal fishing method. I hereby instruct the fisheries enforcement agencies and community leaders that anybody caught using the ‘’hurry up’’ should be prosecuted,” she said.

State Minister for Fisheries, Hellen Adoa addressing journalists in Kampala. Photo by Baker Ssenyonga.

She said fishing of Mukene on the lakes will only be done using the scoop net method [Kyoota] as it was formally being done. “This will only be done during the dark phase of the month, that is about 14 days,” she said.

Further, she said fishing of the small pelagics by non-citizens is illegal “and any unauthorised foreigners found fishing must apprehended and dealt with according to the law”.

“Members of the public and the fishing community, I wish to inform you that our fisheries are very important for the country. For example, the small pelagic fishery is a very important fishery to Uganda.”

There are three main types of small pelagic fish species that are harvested in the country; namely Mukene, Ragoogi, and Muziri. Mukene is mainly found in Lake Victoria and Kyoga whereas Ragoogi and Muziri are on Lake Albert.

According to the minister, all together the three types of small pelagic fishery contribute more than 70 percent of the total fish caught in Uganda annually and employ more than 60 percent of the fishing communities who are involved in various activities along the fisheries value chain.

"My Ministry therefore takes the sustainable exploitation of this fishery very seriously. This is because we wish to protect and enhance the livelihoods of more than 60 percent of the fishing communities that depend on this fishery. Sustainable exploitation also plays an important ecological function, because these species are part of the aquatic food chain.”

As provided for in the laws on Lake Victoria, this fish can only be harvested by nets, the meshes of which should be  10 millimetres and above. On Lakes Kyoga and Albert, it is 8mm and above, she said.

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