The fisheries directorate at the agriculture ministry and the Uganda People's Defence Forces Fisheries Protection Unit-FPU has today, Wednesday , distributed some of the impounded immature fish to Uganda Prisons Services and the vulnerable who include orphans and widows within Kampala Metropolitan area.
The fisheries directorate at the agriculture ministry and the Uganda People's Defence Forces Fisheries Protection Unit-FPU have this Wednesday started distributing stocks of impounded smoked fish to Uganda Prisons Services and the vulnerable who include orphans and widows within Kampala Metropolitan area.
The immature fish, close to 20 tonnes in four trucks, was impounded at the DR Congo border post of Mpondwe last month. The value of the impounded fish has not yet been determined.
The trucks, destined for the Democratic Republic of Congo were impounded at Mpondwe in Kasese on October 10 and were driven to the Fisheries Directorate head office in Entebbe two days later.
The trucks that are all Fuso in make, bear registration number plates UAF 813L, UBB 894Z, UBA 893G and UBH 606P. They were impounded for allegedly ferrying immature fish as goods in transit from Kenya to DR Congo.
However, after securing a court order to break the seals on the trucks, officials from the fisheries directorate, FPU and Uganda Revenue Authority-URA confirmed that the four trucks had carried large volumes of immature fish that were caught from within Uganda and then repacked in Kenya for export to DR Congo.
Even though a delegation led by officials from the Kenya High Commission to Uganda and fishermen petitioned the ministry to release the trucks because they were carrying goods in transit two weeks ago, the Minister of State for Fisheries, Hellen Adoa insisted that the fish were caught from within Uganda.
Adoa says the ministry last week secured a court order to dispose the impounded fish.
As a result, Adoa says the ministry and FPU have agreed to distribute the fish to prisoners, vulnerable groups such as the elderly, orphans and widows through Uganda Police Force and Uganda Red Cross Society.
She says the distribution will continue for the rest of the month because the ministry has received several requests from the general public.
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Adoa is however urging the fishing communities in Uganda and Kenya to liase with government agencies to curb illegal fishing activities because they derail efforts to protect the lakes and aquatic life.
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Tom Mukasa Bukenya, the commissioner Fisheries Control, Regulation and Quality Assurance at the agriculture ministry said each of the trucks had over 5 tonnes of salted and smoked immature fish, mainly Nile Perch and Nile Tilapia caught from Lake Kyoga, not Lake Turkana as the drivers had declared at Malaba border on October 1.
Innocent Mugabi, a Fisheries Inspector at the agriculture ministry measured some of the fish samples from the sacks that were offloaded from the trucks. He says majority of the fish are undersized, that is less than ten inches instead of 20 inches for the Nile Perch and less than six inches for the Tilapia which should be eleven inches.
Though the truck drivers abandoned the trucks at Mpondwe border and the owners of the fish consignment are still at large, Bukenya says government will track the owners of the trucks since they are registered in Uganda and get leads on who hired the trucks.
Warrant Officer 1 Deogratius Sentiba, the spokesperson of FPU, says the army intercepted the four trucks after FPU personnel deployed at the border asked the four truck drivers to stop so that the trucks are checked.
He says that the drivers abandoned the trucks at the check point.
This raised suspicion on whether or not the drivers were ferrying mature fish and also if they had got cleared by the Uganda Revenue Authority-URA to export fish to the DR Congo.
URA officials recovered seal codes on the four trucks and confirmed that they were issued based on falsely declared goods.
Sentiba is now urging the public, fishermen and fishing communities to be vigilant about illegal fishing activities because the fish stock might be depleted and they will also lose out.
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He says FPU has today arrested a truck driver and the owner of immature fish in another truck in Kasese. He says this is among the 20 trucks including the four intercepted last month, being tracked by the enforcement teams for allegedly carrying immature fish caught from within Uganda.
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Mulangira Wasajja, the vice chairperson Fisheries Association, commends FPU officers who impounded the trucks.
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It is estimated that Uganda loses 430million US Dollars from unregulated fishing every year. To improve regulation and restock the lakes, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni ordered the deployment of FPU personnel on the lakes since 2017.