The Uganda Peoples Defence Forces Fisheries Protection Unit has pardoned fishermen and fish dealers operating at Misonzi Landing site in Kalangala District after they pleaded guilty to engaging in illegal fishing which prompted the fisheries Protection Unit to close the landing site for a week. The Fisheries Protection Unit commanded by Maj. James Nuwagaba agreed to reopen Misonzi Landing site which had been closed for a week and also pardoned all the fishermen and Fish dealers during a meeting that was held on Wednesday at the Kigungu Landing Site.
“We decided to close Misonzi Landing Site after we got credible information that 1000kgs (1 tonne) of smoked immature Nile perch fish was smuggled from the Landing Site through queen Elizabeth National Game Park and Kasese dodged all the check points till it was delivered in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We have agreed to reopen the landing site with strict guidelines and pardoned the fishermen and fish dealers who have pleaded guilty to engaging in illegal fishing. This is the last time we are reopening a landing site in Kalangala because the fisher men and fish dealers are stubborn and dishonest people. We shall permanently close any landing site in Kalangala District if we arrest the fishermen engaging in illegal fishing practices again”, Maj. Nuwagaba stated.
In the new guidelines, all boat owners will be part of the anti-illegal fishing committees to enable them control their fishermen. Smoking of fish at all landing sites in Kalangala has been temporarily suspended because fishermen mix both the immature and mature smoked fish which becomes difficult to identify the immature fish because the illegal fishing gear marks have been removed.
The Fisheries Protection Unit has also called for collective responsibility among the Kalangala residents to share information regarding the fishermen and fish dealers involved in illegal fishing.
Maj. Nuwagaba called on Parliament to expedite the new fishing laws that will give harsher sentences to culprits arrested engaging in illegal fishing. Maj. Nuwagaba noted that the current laws are weak which prompt the Police and the courts of law to release the culprits without being tried.
“We are rolling out a program of re-licensing and registering of boats and boat owners to enable us stream line the fishing industry and deal with the uncontrolled fishing on all water bodies. We shall move landing site by landing site counting and measuring the boats, boats with the recommended standard will be issued with new licenses and number plates. Many fishermen and Business men involved in illegal fishing have resorted to creating and spreading false allegations and propaganda when we refuse to accept their bribes. We have also discovered that some political leaders in Kalangala mainly councilors are involved in illegal fishing”, Maj. Nuwagaba explained.
Maj. Nuwagaba disclosed that two factories namely Iftra located along Gayaza road and Ngege One located in Luzira will reopen in February as a result of their operations which have increased fish stocks on Lake Victoria.
Meanwhile the Kalangala District Woman MP Aidah Nabayiiga and Kyamuswa MP Carol Birungi called on the fishermen to desist from all illegal fishing practices saying that government will soon close all illegal and un-gazetted landing sites which have turned out to be a safe haven for criminals.