The leaders of the fishing community have begged Parliament of Uganda not to rush passing the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, 2021 due to raising concerns about its form.
While appearing before Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Mr John Ssamanya Kiyingi, the chairperson of Uganda Fishmaws Traders Association (UFTA), described as unrealistic the fines, penalties and levies that the Bill seeks to introduce.
He added that the penalties will affect residents who solely depend on fishing for their livelihood.
“There is no need to rush this Bill because it does not favour individuals. It should be passed in the spirit of Ugandans,” Mr Kiyingi said.
Their statement comes at a time when the committee is debating on the contents of the Bill by entertaining the input of stakeholders in the fishing sector which was tabled in the 10th Parliament.
The other concerns he raised about the Bill include giving excessive powers to the Directorate of Fisheries, the Chief Fisheries Officer and the line minister to make guidelines to regulate the fishing sector without involving key stakeholders as well as fears over militarizing the enforcement mechanism in the fisheries sector.
Mr Jackson Musisi, a dealer in fish maw, during his submission requested that the Bill either be reviewed again or suspended, citing some unfriendly clauses in it.
According to him, the moment that Bill is allowed (to pass), people will die. Parliament should delay passing it and the idea of involving the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) in enforcement operations against illegal fishing is not right because of the previous cases cited in gross violation of human rights.
“They should not be involved in these matters, rather, we should have a free Uganda where every person is free to deal in any business of their choice,” he said.
For Ms Sarah Babirye, a dealer in fish maw in Katosi, Mukono, her main concern was the authorities sabotaging her work despite having an operating licence.
“Authorities have continuously reached out to me saying they don’t want to see us touching fish maw or Nile Perch and for this reason, I have come here (to Parliament) to find out why they are frustrating my work in fish maw,” Ms Babirye said.
Recently, a section of fish exporters asked the lawmakers to pass a law that will deter consumption of the Nile Perch on the local market.
According to the exporters, this would protect fish from being depleted from Uganda’s water bodies and would, therefore, guarantee constant supply of it to foreign markets.
Early this month the state Minister of Fisheries, Hellen Adoa also threatened to close fishing activities on some lakes in December this year if the illegality continues.
Adoa said that during her field visit on various lakes in the country she has been emphasizing the need to eradicate illegal fishing so as to improve nature recovery.
“During my field visits to various lakes in the country, I have emphasized the need to eradicate illegal fishing and catching of immature fish. All bad practices and corrupt people need to be removed from the lakes to improve natural recovery.” She said.
“And in December, we can demand that some lakes be closed to fishing to allow for recovery, as was recently done for Lake Kyoga.” She added.
The state Minister also commented on stipulating the law on fisheries and aquaculture to eradicate fishing legalities in the country.
“I would like to inform you that we will soon have a bill on fisheries and aquaculture, which has been submitted to Parliament. We have already made progress in controlling fishing effort and tackling the illegalities on our lakes, in addition to demonstrating the profitability of cage farming through our partners and the private sector.” She said.