The Ugandan government has doled out new rules for fishermen operating on Lake Albert to curb illegal fishing activities carried out at the lake.
Commander for Fisheries Protection Uni (FPU), Lt. Col Dick Kirya Kaija disclosed in an interview that Lake Albert would only be made available to licensed fishermen.
Some of the new rules include an application for a fishing license, revoking of license if abused, having a boat registration number, amongst others.
With the new development, about 7,000 fishermen who cannot afford the recommended fishing gears are likely to lose their jobs.
So far, the fishermen have been given a one-month ultimatum to remit all substandard fishing apparatus to the FPU.
Lt. Col Kaija said that the fishermen will be required to apply to the Directorate of Fisheries for a license and those who qualify will be required to have the recommended fishing apparatus.
They would also be given boat registration numbers after paying for the fishing license, he further disclosed.
“When the lake is regulated, the fishing activity shall not be for everyone, only a few who will be licensed will be allowed to do fishing and Lake Albert has been with open access for all those who have the money.
” That is why someone has been with 100 boats, others with 50 boats, while others have nothing. Now, the fishermen will be required to first get permission to make the boat and after getting a license and boat number before they start fishing,” Lt Col Kaija said.
He further revealed that the one-year license will not be transferable and will be revoked if abused.
“Now we are fighting illegal fishing on the lake and effective July this year, we shall start arresting all fishermen at Lake Albert who will be found with illegal fishing gears,” he said.
However, fishermen at different landing sites in Ntoroko have expressed their concerns that these extreme conditions will push them out of business.
A fisherman from Kanara, Mr. Martin Baluku said the recommended fishing apparatus costs about Shs15m which is unaffordable to them.
“Government is pushing us out of the lake indirectly and this has been our source of livelihood over the years,” Mr. Baluku said.
Another fisherman, Mr. Abdul Malik Mugenyi said the cheapest fishing gear ranges between Shs4.5 million and Shs6 million.
“For fisherman now to be on the lake with all recommended fishing gears, one needs some millions of money, which is expensive. We appeal to the government to provide fishing gears to fishermen,” Mr Mugenyi said.