Government has extended fishing ban on Lake Kyoga on ground that a number of issues need to be worked on by the fishermen before the lake could be opened.
Fishermen from different landing sites on Lake Kyoga were on Wednesday seen excited after the arrival of the Minister of State for Fisheries, Hellen Adoa. However, the excitement was short-lived when she announced that government was not ready to open the lake.
The LC1 chairperson for Ninga Landing site in Kalungi Sub County in Nakasongola District, Mr Rogers Bisaso Mugerwa accused UPDF soldiers under the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) of unfair treatment.
“We have suffered a lot because of the FPU who think they have all the powers on the lake. They have become unruly, they never consulted us (local leaders) while vetting boats to be accepted when the lake opens. They said we would each be required to pay Shs 1.7 million for the recommended size of the boat. Where do they expect us to get this money from yet we haven’t been working?” he asked.
He also noted that Nakasongola District was supposed to receive 1,733 boats contrary to the 700 boats they received.
“The district officials met with MAAIF and agreed on the number of boats to be allocated to Nakasongola District landing sites but these were reduced by UPDF,” he said.
According to him, Ninga Landing site was supposed to receive 112 boats but only 50 were received.
Enforcement officials are said to have vetted only three landing sites; Ninga, Kakyanga and Dagala while others like Kasambya, Kisenyi , Irima and Kyalusaka are yet to be vetted, according to local leaders.
The area MP Mr Noah Mutebi Wanzala also questioned why the contract to make boats was given to “an outsider” yet there are people among the community who know how to make the boats.
“It was surprising that community members who know how to make boats were not given chance. UPDF instead decided to give the contract to a one Kyalimpa claiming that local people don’t have good timber to make boats. I think it’s not right,” he said.
He said the vetting of boat owners and registration exercise was supposed to be jointly done by UPDF, Marine, technical staff and local leadership of Nakasongola District but was instead exclusively done by the UPDF officials.
“Only boat owners have been registered leaving out other categories of fishermen, processors and transporters who are demanding to know their fate,” he said.
Lt Col Benon Namanya said that 80 percent of the lake has been clear and therefore only those with standard boats, nets and life jackets will be allowed on the lake.
He also refuted allegations of not registering fishermen from other landing sites.
“Our heads are not computers; we also forget but that issue is going to be solved and everyone is to be registered,” he said.
Ms Adoa advised fishermen to first work on the pending issues before government reopens the lake.
“We can’t reopen when some of you haven’t acquired the standard boat of 28ft, legal fishing gears and life jackets. Only registered fishermen with recommended boats and fishing gear will be allowed on the waters and therefore, as soon as everything is put in place like in three weeks’ time, we shall reopen the lake.”
Fishing on the lake was suspended last year on the request of the district leaders under Lake Kyoga Integrated Management Organisation (LAKIMO) following concerns of depletion of fish species due to poor fishing methods.
Lake Kyoga is to have a total number of 11,000 boats, according to government.