Poachers defying fishing suspension on Lake Kivu

Fishermen in Lake Kivu in Rusizi District. The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources has announced a two-month suspension of fishing activities on the lake. Sam Ngendahimana.

A crackdown has been mounted on fish poachers to comply with the Government’s directive to suspend fishing activities in Lake Kivu until October 13 to allow restocking.

According to a statement issued recently by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, the two-month suspension of fishing activities – which is called ‘biological break’ – is intended to allow fish to multiply, and should be observed by fishing communities.

Illegal fishing activities are among the factors threatening fish production in the lake especially during that two-month moratorium. Common fish species in Kivu include sardines (Isambaza), Haplochromis (Indugu) and Tilapia.

The Ministry’s statement said that the trade of sardines is banned in the entire country in that two-month period. It declared that those who will be caught while capturing fish during that period will get punished.

Dr Solange Uwituze, the Deputy Director-General of Animal Research and Technology Transfer at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) told The New Times that total fish produced from Lake Kivu was 18,879 tons in 2018, amounting to 70 per cent of total fish production in Rwanda.

Uwituzes said that fish production in Lake Kivu had decreased citing illegal fishing using mosquito nets and other illegal snares yet there’s no renewable stocking.

She said that the two-month biological break is imposed every year on fishing activities at every lake in Rwanda, but in separate periods.

It will boost fish production as the biological break allows to restore the brood stock for Isambaza (sardine),” she said of the impact of that move.

Célestin Simarinka, a fisherman and representative of Ucopeveka – a union of fishermen in Karongi District – said the biological break was needed because normally the fish population reduces after 10 months of fishing per year.

But he indicated that poachers tend to use that period when fishing is temporally suspended to illegally capture fish during the night.

“They (poachers) use mosquito nets to catch fish which even collect their eggs, and another illegal snare called Kaningini which catches Isambaza larvae, hence threatening the sustainability of fish production in the lake. So, we are mounting a crackdown on them,” he said.

Simarinka said that the over 82 fishermen who are members of the union’s three cooperatives produce an average of eight tonnes (or 8,000 kilogrammes) of fish per month.