Hard time for E. Africa’s fishing industry

08Feb 2016
Grace Kambaulaya
The Guardian
Hard time for E. Africa’s fishing industry

FRANK Makarani has been fishing in Lake Victoria for the past 40 years. The 66-year-old recounted that in those good days fishing was a paying job.

Fishing at Lake Victoria

“I remember in 1990s when fishing was at its peak, I managed to build a four-bedroom house in Nyakato area, on the outskirts of Mwanza City, but now things have changed to worse,” he said.

“For small-scale fishermen like me, fishes are nowhere to be seen. And the reason behind is that fish stock has reduced compared to the past,”said the father of seven, who uses locally made canoe to do his fishing activities.

The fisherman cited illegal fishing gears and over-fishing as some of the reasons as why fish stock decreased in Lake Victoria — the world’s second largest inland water body shared by Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

“There are some fishermen who use fishing gears which are unfriendly to fishing such as the use dynamite and sometimes poisons,” he said, adding that the arrival of fish processing industries along the lake came as a blessing, but “this has also contributed to the diminishing of fish stock in the lake as more fish are fished on daily basis.”

He expressed his discontentment on the trend that has been making small-scale fishermen to continue living miserable lives. “Sometimes you go into the lake and you come out with nothing,” he said, adding he is thinking of abandoning fishing and looks for another job.

Makarani’s predicament has represented thousands of fishermen in East Africa. High-ranking officials from the five East African Community’s (EAC) States gathered on Friday in Mwanza — the second largest city in Tanzania to extensively discuss on how to address the challenge.

They also expressed their worries on the sharp decline of fish stock in the lake, heaping their blames on the increase use of illegal fishing gears in the lake, which attracts over 300,000 small scale fishermen and traders as well as heavy cargo planes from Europe.

“It is a very serious concern that needs to be addressed for the plight of thousands of people living along the lake,” said Jesca Eriyo, EAC Deputy Secretary General in-charge of Productive and Social Sectors.

She suggested the need for EAC Partner States to chip in and come up with collective measures to address the menace that jeopardizes lives of millions of East Africans who rely on the fresh-water lake.

The official cited illegal fishing gears such as dynamite and application of chemicals as the leading killers of fishing industry in Lake Victoria.

“This is an area that we need to work on to address the vice which pose a serious threat to more than 30 million people living along the Lake,” Eriyo said at a forum attended by officials and experts from the five EAC Partner States. Tanzania’s Permanent Secretary for Water and Irrigation, Mbogo Futakamba suggested the need for the five partner states to re-invent the wheel by encouraging better use of water resources and environment to improve people’s livelihoods.

“As countries, we need to team up in ensuring that the lake basin is widely used for the current and future generation,” said the PS, calling for wise use of liquid waste to save the lake from pollution. Executive Secretary, Lake Victoria Basin Commission, Dr. Canisius Kanangire admitted the challenge, calling for different players to chip in and address the use of illegal fishing gears in lake Victoria.