Regional countries need to promote aquaculture because East Africans are not getting enough fish and the amount obtained from available natural water bodies is not enough.
MP Christophe Bazivamo (Rwanda), who chairs the committee on agriculture, tourism and natural resources at the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), said this earlier in the week as he presented the status of fisheries in the region.
Aquaculture, the farming of water organisms, involves cultivating freshwater and saltwater populations under controlled conditions, as opposed to commercial fishing, which is the harvesting of wild fish.
“Fish production is not adequate from natural waters to cater for high population growth in East African Community partner states. It is for this reason that aquaculture should be promoted,” said Bazivamo.
Findings during the committee’s previous oversight activities revealed that even though fisheries are a source of protein to about 150 million people in the Community, per capita fish consumption is less than 10 kg per annum compared to World Health Organisation recommended per capita consumption of 25 kg per annum.
Why focus on fish?
Nutritionists say fish provides a good source of high quality protein and contains many vitamins and minerals.
Dr Robert Kayanda, a regional fisheries expert, earlier informed the committee that latest per capita consumption studies for respective partner states are: Burundi 3.6 kilogrammes, Kenya 3.45 kilogrammes, Rwanda 2.3 kilogrammes, Uganda 10 kilogrammes and Tanzania 8 kilogrammes.
Bazivamo, however, noted that low per capita fish consumption in the Community depends on several factors, including low production which triggers high prices, religious factors and traditional norms.
“Fish production is higher in Uganda than in Tanzania, which has a big portion of Lake Victoria due to extensive use of aquaculture and fish cages technologies used by Ugandan fish farmers,” Bazivamo said.
Considering the observations made from activities on Lake Victoria, the region and Africa’s largest lake, the regional lawmakers were able to deduce some challenges, including continued use of prohibited illegal fishing methods.
But since the committee members observed in general that the information received from the activity undertaken on parts of the lake was not enough to give a thorough picture of fisheries in all partner states, they resolved to undertake further research so as to get a complete picture on the sector.
Lawmakers, however, learned that, on average on Lake Victoria, the overall fish biomass had decreased from 1.3 metric tonnes recorded in 1999 to 0.8 metric tonnes between 2010 and 2011.
A survey conducted in 2014 states that biomass of Nile Perch increased by 30 per cent in western parts of Lake Victoria.
They were also informed that the allowable size of Nile Perch catch in all partner sates is between 50cm and 85cm in which below 50cm and above 85cm are conserved for stocking.
The 2014 survey also revealed that the average biomass trend of Dagaa is on the rise from: 1999 (20 per cent); 2002 (26 per cent); 2006 (40 per cent) and 2014 (44 per cent).