BIODIVERSITY: An agreement signed recently provides for technical exchange between Uganda and Rwanda on the acquisition of breeding stock of Oreochromis Niloticus a species of fish also known as Nile Tilapia writes BERNA NAMATA IN KAMPALA
Government has started on a major fish restocking exercise of her depleted inland water bodies, a move that may see the country boost her imported fish products from neighboring countries.
To expedite the exercise, Uganda’s Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture and the Rwanda Inland Lakes Integrated Development and Management Support Project have already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
The MoU signed recently in September, partly provides for technical exchange between Uganda and Rwanda and the acquisition of ‘foundation stock’ (breeding stock) of Oreochromis Niloticus (Nile Tilapia).
The Tilapia is described as fast growing and of high reproductive rate is from Lake Albert in Uganda. Rwanda ordered for 3,500 tilapia fish fingerlings—the young of fish costing Rwf5,000 each.
They are to restock the 17 inland water bodies in Rwanda depleted after over- fishing and pollutions of the water bodies.
Officials in Kampala sais that, “(Fingerling) weighs between 50 -75gms and can mature within 5 months.
This means in less than a year, Rwandan water bodies will have enough parent stock to breed.
It has been a policy in Uganda that Tilapia fish is for national consumption but the Rwandan government requested for the fish to restock their lakes, Fred Mukisa, the Ugandan State Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries told The New Times in an exclusive interview.
According to Eric Nadiope, a Ugandan Fisheries Officer who is part of the technical team to restock water bodies in Rwanda, supplies of the Tilapia fingerlings will be done in the ratio of 3:1 (3 females and 1 male).
The initial stock of the Tilapia fingerlings is to be delivered after Rwanda pays partial payment of the total cost.
According to Nadiope, Nile Tilapia breeds according to the environmental conditions in which it breeds. If the fish is subjected to extremely harsh conditions—over fishing and drought conditions, it will respond by breeding within 4-6 months, though it will breed smaller fish between 6-7 inches.
While, if the conditions are favorable, it may take between eight months to one-year breeding bigger fish of about 11 inches.
“The fingerlings that will be delivered are expected to grow and reproduce such that Rwanda can start restocking other water bodies,” he said.
Nadiope’s comment comes at a backdrop of, a recent regional stakeholders’ meeting on Lake Victoria Fisheries. The theme was “Fish for the Future Is Everyone’s Responsibility”.
The overall objective of the three day conference was to draw attention to the declining Nile Perch stocks in Lake Victoria, the major fish export for the East African Community and to call for collaborative efforts to ensure responsible utilisation of the fisheries resources at all levels.
“A specific recovery plan for the Nile Perch fishery of Lake Victoria has to be developed, agreed and implemented with Stake holder’s participation, to avert the collapse of the fishery,” Honorable John. P. Magufuli, the State Minister of Livestock Development and Fisheries who is also chairman Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LVFO) Council of Ministers told delegates at the opening ceremony of the three day meeting.
The Lake Victoria with a surface area of 68,800km2 is shared by Tanzania occupying 51 per cent, Uganda 43 per cent and Kenya 6 per cent.
It is estimated that Lake Victoria has a total fish catch of around one million tonnes per annum making it one of the world’s most important inland fisheries.
Speaking to The New Times, Dick Nyeko, the Executive Secretary LVFO noted that lack of political will from the partner States has exacerbated the problem of declining trend in both the biomass and catch of the Nile perch stock in the region.
“Absence of political will among the partner states has been a major challenge. Unless the policy makers and politicians see the fisheries sector as an area worthy of investment and pay attention, it is very difficult to successfully address the problem at hand. Governments must be ready to commit resources,” he said.
He added that lack of political will leads to weak governess of the fisheries and that the situation is further exacerbated by the vulnerabilities of the fisheries.
Nyeko also made strong case for the fishermen who have been identified as the perpetrators of illegal fishing that has also largely contributed to the declining stocks.
“The people who are destroying the fishing sector are the fishermen themselves. Not that they do it intentionally but because they want to survive. That’s why it is important to first address the challenges and issues related to the livelihood of the fishermen as we address the whole problem,” he said.
He also noted leadership and management gaps of inland lake have contributed to the declining stocks of the Nile Perch.
The Kampala conference was attended by Ministers from the three Partner States and members of parliament from Lake Shore constituencies, members of the EAC legislative Assembly, researchers, judiciary, private sector, beach management units, civil society and development partners.
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