FAO to support govt regulate fisheries, aquaculture
Stakeholders validate Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill 2018
MUKONO | A proposed law on fisheries and aquaculture could change the dynamics in fisheries and management of commercial fishing should Parliament approve revisions to the Fish Act, 2000.
The proposed Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, 2018 is part of efforts by Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries to provide an enabling policy and regulation framework to the stakeholders engaged in fisheries and aquaculture activities.
The Fish Act of 2000 only provided for regulation of capture fish and was silent on issues to address aquaculture activities such as management of commercial fishing, fish selling, post-harvest handling, fish transportation, surveillance and control monitoring of fisheries units as well as fisheries research.
“The Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill is long awaited in Parliament and should be finalized as soon as possible” to facilitate its enactment into law,” Vincent Sempijja, the minister for agriculture and fisheries, said.
Currently, Uganda’s main water body, Lake Victoria, is the face of a major controversy as local fishermen engage UPDF marine soldiers deployed on the vast water body by President Museveni in rowing battles.
Fishermen accuse the soldiers of human rights violations, including alleged shooting dead of fishermen on the lake. The soldiers enforce regulations against illegal fishing.
But the proposed law is expected to provide for the conservation, capture, farming, rearing, processing and marketing of fish, the licensing and registration of fishing vessels and fishers.
The Bill, if passed, will also provide for the control and regulation of all fisheries and aquaculture production activities and practices, the methods of fishing and fishing gear, and provide an enabling environment for equitable sharing of increased benefits from a more productive fisheries sector;
The draft law also seeks to consolidate and reform the law relating to fisheries and fisheries products;
The fisheries and aquaculture sub-sectors contribute significantly to Uganda’s national economic growth, development as well as food and nutrition.
Uganda has one of the largest fresh water resources in the world and almost 20% of its surface area is water. This expansive water resource has supported fisheries sector, enabling both capture and farmed fisheries since 1920s.
While fisheries contributes 12% of agricultural GDP of Uganda and supplies 50% of animal proteins consumed in the country, a number of challenges, which seriously affect the economic and social contribution of fisheries and aquaculture, cripple the vibrancy of the sub-sector.
Some of the challenges include over fishing caused by increasing demand due to population growth, use of illegal fishing gear, poor quality of fish seeds, limited access to fish seeds and feeds, as well as continued trade in illegal and unrecorded immature fish hence costing the country about USD429 million in income lost.
These, coupled with weak legal and institutional frameworks are major bottlenecks to the development of a favorable fisheries and aquaculture sub-sector in Uganda.
The proposed Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, 2018 will therefore help to address some of these challenges and foster a sustainable fisheries and aquaculture sub-sector.
As part of the review process of the proposed Bill, the ministry, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, through the Food and Nutrition Security Impact, Resilience, Sustainability and Transformation (FIRST) project, organised a National Validation Workshop on the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, 2018, on January 25 in Mukono.
Participants who include key stakeholder in the sector reviewed the current version of the draft Bill, validated it and produced a final version of the draft Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, 2018, that will subsequently be sent to cabinet for approval.
The validation workshop was held on the backdrop of regional and country-wide consultations that generated views from relevant regional and local government stakeholders, on the proposed Bill.
While officiating at the validation workshop, Sempijja commended FAO and other stakeholders for prioritising the fisheries and aquaculture sub-sectors and promoting relevant laws to ensure sustainability.
“While the Fish Act, Cap 197, provides for the control of fishing, fish conservation, purchase, sale, marketing, processing of fish, it is now outdated to address current technological advancement and the changed fisheries sector,” he said.
FAO Country Representative Antonio Querido said the proposed Bill will help to regulate developments in the fisheries and aquaculture sub-sectors, while fostering sustainable and nutritious food production in Uganda.
“If not regulated, aquaculture can become a potential risk to the environment such as increased water pollution and loss of biodiversity. Unplanned aquaculture can also lead to competition among other resource users that can degenerate into conflicts,” he said.
“The proposed law will also help to address post-harvest losses resulting from inadequate fish handling facilities and poor hygiene while also increasing availability of fish and fisheries products for marketing and consumption,” Querido added.
He pledged FAO’s commitment committed to support the ministry toward development and finalisation ofcnecessary regulations and standard operating procedures required to adequately operationalise the fisheries and aquaculture policy and law in Uganda.