Up to 350 people are jobless after two fish factories in Rakai and Masaka districts closed as fish stocks in Lake Victoria dwindle.
Both Fresh Water Fish Processing plant located at Kachanga landing site in Masaka and Byansi Fisheries Company Limited located in Kalisizo town council in Rakai suspended operations late last year with hopes of reopening but they remain closed.
The two factories were employing 200 and 150 people respectively.
One of the managers of Fresh Water Fish Processing plant, who declined to reveal his identity because he is not the official spokesperson, said that they closed and sent over 200 employees back home. He explains that the factory collapsed after failing to hit the daily six tonnage processing target.
He says that the whole of 2013 they operated at 3 tonnes per day which was below capacity to break even. He says as result, they stopped operating and sent 90% of the employees that were involved in fish handling to their homes.
Tom Bukenya, the Masaka district Fisheries officer, attributes the shortage of fish catch on increased use of banned fishing gears. He says although they intensified operations against them, the fisheries department does not have capacity eradicate the practice altogether.
Bukenya says in addition to collapse of these fish processing factories, Masaka district is now losing millions of shillings in revenue. He says the district was getting at least 20 million shillings monthly from fish dealers but some of them have abandoned their work. He says Kalokoso landing site where the district was getting 2.8 million shillings monthly closed down due to fish scarcity.
Hassan Waiswa, the South Lake Victoria Fisheries Inspector, says Byansi Fisheries Company closed because it had failed to get mature fish.
According to Waiswa, Greater Masaka region is losing over two billion shillings daily to immature fishing.
Ayub Wasswa, one of the fishermen who were working with Fresh Water Fish Processing, says he is currently stranded. He says he used to earn at least 200,000shillings monthly as salary but it is no more.
He says he recently returned to fishing but his wooden boat was hit by strong winds and it gave way.
Jafaali Kasirivu, a UPDF Commander recently deployed to carry out operations against illegal fishing, says the practice is widespread. He says they seize at least 400 banned fishing gears every day on Lake Victoria.
Kasirivu now says they have deployed military intelligence officers to Kisekka market in Kampala, Masaka town and Jinja to track down the suppliers. He believes that without closing down the sources of these fishing gears, they cannot stop immature fishing.
Uganda’s annual fish export earnings have drastically dropped from 140 million Dollars in 2004 to 87 million Dollars in 2013.