- Coupled with the population in West Nile, there is also high demand for fish in South Sudan and DR-Congo with lucrative market turned to be in Pakwach and Panyimur
By Okaba Patrick
Pakwach. District leaders and fishermen are worried of the increasing decline of fish on Lake Albert that has led to skyrocketing price.
They said the illegal fishing gears used by some fishermen, increasing population that has created high demand was contributing to the decline in fish. This, the leaders say would also affect their revenue because they heavily depend on fish as chief source of income.
One of the fishermen in Dei landing site, Charles Uyunguru, said on Tuesday that some of the known traditional breeding peninsular corners for fish at Kayonga and Angumu landing sites which have been gazetted by elders for over decades’ have destroyed leaving fish getting exposed.
He adds that they hardly get fish nearby and in most cases some fishermen cross to Murchison National park to look for better fishing areas but, they end up being arrested and taken to court.
“Our livelihoods are at stake because at the landing sites people have not thought of doing other things like Agriculture but taken fishing as their only source of income. This has led to over-fishing.”
In the past, some areas on the lake were preserved for breeding and fishermen were punished by elders if they fished there. This was meant to ensure that fish multiplies in those areas where they spread to other parts of the lake.
Some of the fish species like Electric fish and Nile Perch which should have been used as tourist attraction are all depleted due to over fishing using illegal fishing gears on the Lake.
According to Jimmy Berocan, the Pakwach Fisheries Officer, the reduction in fish species on Lake and River Nile is attributed by destruction of mating or breeding areas for fish in the water which have been encroached by fishermen.
“The hide out of fishes are cleared off by fishermen in order to conduct fishing activities and this has caused radical reduction in fish species. The young ones end up being caught using by the non-recommended gears,” Berocan said.
He added that the decline of fish species is not only affecting the fishing communities, but also affecting the revenue base of the district. For instance, Berocan said in 2020, the annual estimated tones of the species captured were at 66.250 tones which represented the annual revenue of Shs 139,232,400 million.
And Alestes Baremoze, the expensive fish species commonly sold to travelers in Pakwach town taking lead in revenue with Shs 5, 015,000 million representing 590 tones. He added that in restoring the lost species of fish, government should come up with viable projects like Cage fish farming which can double the economic status of fishing communities at the lake shores for the improved livelihoods.
One of the businessmen Nixon Kisarach, a dealer in fish business, said in early 2000, he used to send two lorries loaded with fish to Southern Sudan per week but these days, he hardly gets even a lorry due depletion of fish species.
“We are about to be pull out of fish business since the fish are depleted to the extent of failing to get fish for home consumptions more so the highly demanded species.”
He adds that a kilo of fish in Panyimur Town Market goes at Shs 10,000 unlike in early 2000’s whereby a kilo of fish was Shs 2000.
Meanwhile the chairman business community Panyimur, Paul Kinobe, said on every market day of Panyimur, over 2000 people report for fish business which has fueled the demand for fish in the area.
“The lake is now producing less than being demanded because, the lake is overwhelmed by over fishing due to population pressure with the influx of the Congolese who rely on fish from here,” Kinobe said.
Lake Albert is located towards the tip of the western arm of the African Rift Valley between Uganda and DR-Congo. Lake Albert was one of the lakes in Uganda with varieties of fish species but has become historical in the literature review for the young generations to study the trend at which natural resources are getting depleted.