Buvuma — Fishermen dealing in Nile Perch at landing sites in Buvuma, Buikwe and Kalangala districts have joined their counterparts in Masaka and Kyotera districts who indefinitely suspended fishing activities at the weekend.
Although the fishermen in Masaka and Kyotera accuse their counterparts in Tanzania of flooding the Ugandan market with cheap fish, those in Buikwe, Buvuma and Kalangala protest the declining fish prices, generally.
The most affected landing sites in Buikwe include; Kiyindi and Senyi where most of the fishermen sell their fish to processing and exporting companies.
They claim that they incur a lot of expenses in the process of catching fish yet the profits are low.
“We have decided to suspend fishing activities because we cannot afford making losses all the time. For example, it requires 20 litres of fuel to sail to areas in the lake where we catch Nile Perch of a recommended size, if one catches fish of 20 kilogrammes and sells each kilogramme at Shs4, 500, he actually remains with nothing because there are other costs such as paying workers, taxes and other expenses,” Mr Fred Mubiru, the chairperson of Senyi Landing Site, said in an interview on Wednesday.
He said the decision to park their boats was unanimously taken by all fishermen on Monday to allow government intervene in the matter.
“We know there is significant increase in fish stocks but that shouldn’t be used to cheat the poor fishermen. If they [government] had not put a ban on dried fish, we could have preserved them and waited for the price to stabilize,” he said.
An estimated seven tonnes of Nile Perch are said to be ferried out of Buvuma and Buikwe districts daily. Each fish truck leaving the landing site pays Shs60, 000 as revenue for the district and another Shs20, 000 which goes to government coffers.
Mr Alex Kakooza, a fisherman at Lyabaana Sub-county, Buvuma District, who trades through Senyi Fishing Landing Site, castigated government for failing to set a standard price per kilogramme of Nile Perch which companies must follow.
“Everything we use in our fishing business has become expensive, from fishing nets to fuel, we pay taxes but it seems government is not bothered about our predicament,” he said.
Mr James Kalemera, a fisherman at Kiyindi Landing Site, revealed that a kilogramme of Nile Perch was at Shs10, 000 a year ago but has since dropped to Shs4, 500.
“When they [government] brought new strict fishing regulations, we all agreed to follow them religiously and that is the reason there is plenty of fish now, but this shouldn’t be used to throw us out of business,” he said.
Mr Willy Lugoloobi, the Kalangala District chairperson, said they fully support the fishermen’s strike because a drop in fish prices equally affects the district revenue.
“If they [fishermen] are not making profits, there is no way they can pay taxes. Their [fishermen] cause is genuine and we fully support them,” he said yesterday. He added that Kalangala District has 5,354 boats spread at 68 landing sites where they generate Shs600m as revenue annually.
In Kalangala, fishermen pay Shs10, 000 as landing fees and fish movement permits daily.
The director of fisheries resources in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Edward Rukuunya, said government will soon address the issue.
“We are not seated as government, the minister has already forwarded their issues to Parliament and they will be addressed soon,” he said.
Last October , Mr Sujal Goswami, the chairperson, Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association, said imports from other countries had overtaken Uganda’s fish exports into Europe- a scenario that partly explains the drop in fish prices.
“The prices have been going down yet we cannot stop production but continue to sustain the market at a loss,” he said.
Mr Goswami said the demand for fish is low and the European indigenous species are affecting Uganda’s fish which was on high demand 15 years ago.
Europe is Uganda’s leading fish export market destination commanding over 80 per cent of the country’s product.
Due to bad fishing practices, fish stocks in Lake Victoria had drastically reduced and this in 2017 forced President Museveni to deploy soldiers under the Fisheries Protection unit on major landing sites. This has in the last couple of years seen fish stock especially Nile Perch significantly increase in size.
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