Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) from fishing districts around Lake Victoria say uncoordinated moves by several enforcement teams is failing control of illegal fishing.
The Public Accounts Committee on Thursday heard that apart from the respective district Beach Management Units, there are enforcement teams from the state minister for fisheries, Uganda Revenue Authority, fisheries staff and marines who patrol the waters.
Richard Mugolo, CAO Namayingo district, told the public accounts committee that when the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries sent their officers to licence vessels, it was noted that those who paid money for licensing did not get a differentiation from those who were not.
This made it difficult for the districts to enforce licences since both those with illegal vessels and the licensed ones continued fishing.
Mugolo says they need immediate updates from the ministry of number plates of licensed vessels. However, they now face a challenge because all the patrol teams are working independently which has caused confusion.
Mugolo notes that the water body is porous which provides no limit and many vessels coming from Kenya that fish illegally and steal engines from Uganda.
He reveals that on several occasions they have raised the issue with the authorities which border the Ugandan Lake Victoria in Kenya but it fell on deaf ears. He suggests that if there is going to be any effective registration, all East African countries should be involved to ensure boats from those countries are also authorized.
Kayise Chrisestom, Nakasongola CAO, stated that they have a problem with the officers from the minister’s office who are sent to the field without facilitation and end up taking the district’s revenue.
Yusuf Senteza, CAO Mayuge district, added that the teams that claim to come from the state minister of fisheries office normally confiscate fishing nets and after getting money off the fishermen, they return the nets.
Kasiano Wadri, the PAC chairman, wondered why the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries has failed to effect licensing.
Vincent Rubarema, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Agriculture, explained that when the reform was done in 2010 it was agreed upon by stakeholders that for each license payment a particular amount would be set aside in the fish fund.
However, the PS says even though the fish act 2011 provided for it, the ministry of finance blocked the creation of the fish fund. The collected revenue from the license fee is now taken to the consolidated fund.
According to a 2010 survey 56,957 vessels were found to be operating in the Ugandan side of L. Victoria alone, compared to 13,450 registered and licenced.
It was noted that no records were availed by ministry of agriculture for the period 2008/2009 of registered vessels.
A field audit also established that 54 percent of the landing sites operate without registers, which allows vessels to operate without vetting by beach management units as a control measure.
The districts with unregistered vessels at landing sites include Buvuma, Busia, Mpigi, Masaka and Rakai. Those that exercise registration of vessels include Mayuge, jinja and KCCA.
Out of 5537 vessels that docked at 138 landing sites, 3,751 vessels weren’t in the register.
The auditors conclude that the ministry lost 8 billion shillings while 13 districts lost 2. 3 billion shillings due to failure to license vessels operating in Lake Victoria.