Entebbe. All fishing boats on Lake Victoria must have number plates before being authorised to ply the lake, three East African member states of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, have agreed.
According to Mr Patrick Kimani, an official from SmartFish, a regional fisheries programme funded by the European Union to tackle illegal fishing on the lake, the joint move is among a raft of measures that the three countries advanced as they seek to arrest the near-to-nothing fish stocks situation.
“Some boats you see in the lake are more expensive than cars. So why do we say boda bodas (commercial motorcycles) and cars should have number plates and not boats,” Mr Kimani asked at the regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) conference in Entebbe in Wakiso District on Wednesday.
“When the boats are used in illegal fishing, for now, we cannot track down the owner. But with the number plates, we have a national data base, it is even digitalised, [and] once you get involved in illegalities, we can track you and deny you licence for the next years,” he added.
Mr Geoffrey Monor, the executive secretary of Lake Victioria Fisheries Organisation, an institution of the East African Community, said the current fish stocks are at an alarming rate and everything is being done, including joint monitoring of the lake, providing adequate information to policy makers and lobbying for reinstatement of beach management units, to tame irregularities.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries figures show that Uganda has lost more than 1 million jobs due to the dwindling fish stocks.
Already, according to available data as of last year, more than 10 fish processing factories have closed.
Mr Paul Okware, the ministry’s commissioner for operations on Lake Victoria, said the country is losing a lot to illegal fishing where unauthorised nets, among others, are being used on the lake to catch under size fish.