A UPDF soldier and two police officers spent the weekend behind police cells for soliciting bribes from fish dealers.
According to Capt Benon Namanya, the sector commander of Fisheries Protection Force in charge of Lake Kyoga landing sites, the trio allowed unscrupulous fish dealers to smuggle immature fish to the market in Nakasongola District.
“We have arrested a soldier who has been soliciting for bribes to aid fish dealers smuggle the immature fish to the market,” he said in an interview at the weekend.
“It is true we have some impersonators now taking advantage of the Fisheries Protection Force in particular areas where we are not present. Our intelligence teams have already arrested two police officers involved,” he added.
Capt Namanya was responding to queries by Nakasongola District councillors as to why operations against illegal fishing on Lake Kyoga have not been extended to Apac and Amolatar districts, where immature fish is sold.
To spread wings
“It is true that our mandate is still on the Nakasongola side, but the operations will soon spread to the other districts that share Lake Kyoga. More officers are being trained to ensure that we have a bigger team to cover a wider area,” he explained.
Last week, some councillors in Nakasongola District complained that there is a man only identified as Rwabazungu who was masquerading as an official from the Fisheries Protection Unit and was soliciting bribes from unsuspecting fish dealers.
Fisheries resources used to provide a big boost to the district tax resource envelope in terms of revenue, but the use of illegal fishing gear and unregulated fishing activities have seen the district lose revenue, with the lake now almost depleted of the mature fish stock, according to the Nakasongola District chairperson, Mr Sam Kigula.
Meanwhile, Nakasongola District has earmarked Shs10m in the 2017/18 budget to procure an auto boat engine for the district’ fisheries department to help curb illegal fish dealers on on Lake Kyoga.
Progress. About 47 tonnes of immature fish have been confiscated from fish dealers and destroyed since the re-launch of the operations against the use of illegal fishing gear and dealing in immature fish on Lake Kyoga waters early this year, according to Capt Benon Namanya, the sector commander of Fisheries Protection Force in charge of Lake Kyoga landing sites.
Challenges. Acting on the orders of President Museveni, the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, in November 2015 withdrew all security officers and banned Beach Management Units from lake shore regions following reports that they were conniving with fishermen to use illegal fishing methods and trading in immature fish.
Effects. Illegal fishing on Ugandan lakes has caused a reduction in fish stocks, especially in species like tilapia, Nile perch and sliver fish, something that has drastically affected the country’s export earnings from fish.