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UPDF marines, MAAIF launch a joint operation against illegal fishing gears

PAKWACH – A joint operation against illegal fishing gears on Lake Albert have been launched at Dei landing sites in Panyimur sub-county, Pakwach district by Uganda Peoples Defense Force (UPDF) marines and Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry (MAAIF) as a solution to the threat on the fish industry.

The ongoing operations against illegal fishing gears on Lake Edward and Lake Albert are being sponsored by Lake Edward, Lake Albert Fisheries (LEAF) project under Lake Victoria Water Basin as one of the modalities to conserve the depleted fish families in Lakes which have endangered the lives of fish in the water.

At the launch of the operation, more than 81 undersized boats that didn’t meet the standard of 8 meters, a tone of under sized monofilaments fishing nets and undersized fish were all burnt to set examples to others.

According to Col. Dick Kaija, the Commanding Officer, UPDF marines, the operation is as a result of the bilateral proxy between Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda that will last for a period of 3 weeks.

The two governments of DRC and Uganda agreed that, Lake Albert and Lake Edward are two shared lakes by the two countries and in order to realize the objectives of enforcements, the two countries must work together since fish don’t know international boundaries.

Kaija adds that to ensure the conservation of fish species which are depleted due to illegal fishing gears on shared Lakes are sustained and harmonized; policies on fishing silverfish and using gears that are prohibited among the two countries must be addressed.

He also noted that, the ongoing operations on Lake Albert are not only aimed at ending illegal fishing gears but, also to harmonize the prolonged security threats that had been caused by Congolese militias on Lake Albert which resulted into the arrest and killing of Ugandan fishermen while fishing on Congo sides.

“The two countries have cemented a mode of communication channels which will address all the challenges facing fishing communities while conducting fishing activities for a sustainable international relationship on the Lake,” Kaija said.

However, one of the fishermen Ali Muhammad Justine developed fears that, the operation on Lake Albert will greatly affect their livelihoods since the rising water level from the Lake and Covid19 have impacted on their livelihoods negatively.

He says fishermen are lay men who don’t know where the nets are manufactured but they end up being losers when it comes to such operations against illegal fishing gears and if possible, the government should be hunting for the manufacturers of illegal fishing nets.

“Now we are the losers and the poorest but the government ordered all the illegal fishing gears to be burnt, where shall we get financial support to boost our livelihoods?”

The Principal Fisheries Inspector (MAAIF) Paul Okware says, Uganda and Congo agreed on joint operations against illegal fishing gears on shared Lake Albert on 3rd of August 2021 in Mahagi territory so, the operations either on DRC or Uganda sides are legal.

“What is causing the depletion of fish in Uganda’s Lakes is also in RDC, so the two countries have agreed to protect their natural resources jointly to regain its natural resources,” Okware said.

He adds that if the Congolese are arrested on Ugandan sides on the Lake while fishing during periods after the operations, they will be handed back to their government in order to maintain the agreed cordial relationship on the lake between the two countries.

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