East Africa: Fishers and scientists back seasonal fishing ban for Lake Victoria (New Vision)

| November 3, 2008

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Walusimbi is a fisher at the Ggaba Landing Site on Lake Victoria, in south central Uganda. Over the years, he has seen the lake’s fish stock rise and fall.

On average, Lake Victoria’s stock of Nile Perch is on a steep decline. But Walusimbi remembers a time when stocks were higher. Ten years ago, when there was a ban on fish exports to Europe, fish increased in size and amount. Walusimbi feels that a seasonal fishing ban could achieve the same result.

A short-term ban on fishing was recently proposed at a conference organized by the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization. The conference brought together fishers and other stakeholders from government and industry in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. The decline of Nile Perch was at the top of the agenda.

According to the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization, the standing stock of Nile Perch has declined by more than 500,000 tonnes since 2001. During roughly the same time period, the number of fishers on the lake has increased by 50 per cent. More and more fishers are using outboard motors and gillnets to catch more fish.

The organization states that the level of Nile Perch has dropped below a point that allows for maximum sustainable yield. Ten fish-processing plants have closed as a result.

Isaac Mukobe works with the Fisheries Resources Research Institute. He said that a seasonal fishing ban would check over-fishing on Lake Victoria. According to Mr. Mukobe, there will be more fish on the lake once it is closed for the breeding season. A proposal for the ban will go before parliament.

Walusimbi knows that a seasonal ban will come at a cost for fishers who have no other source of income. But he believes it will be worthwhile in the long-run.
Click here to see the notes on season fishing ban