THE sustainability of the country’s fisheries resources depends on the existence of effective plans and strategies to manage appropriate harvesting methods and the proper use of those resources.
The government on its part is implementing various plans and strategies, including the Third Five-Year National Development Plan (2021/22-2025/26) and the CCM Manifesto (2020-2025) which aims to reform the fisheries sector.
The objective is to enable the fisheries to be sustainable and to enhance social welfare by providing employment, income and security, food and food security as well as boosting the national economy.
Despite these good intentions and initiatives taken by the government, the fishing sector has in recent years been plagued by illegal fishing, which has been found to threaten various fish products derived from the country’s fisheries resources.
In response to the challenge, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa recently convened a special meeting between the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock and Regional Commissioners, Regional Administrative Secretaries, district commissioners and district/cities executive directors and councils’ chairmen, regional and district security and defence committees, fisheries owners and fisheries stakeholders from lake regions with a view to discussing the challenges of illegal fishing.
In a speech read on his behalf by Minister of Livestock and Fisheries Mr Mashimba Ndaki, which was filled with a strong message to government officials, fisheries industry stakeholders and fishermen themselves, the Prime Minister said Lake Victoria’s contribution is significant compared to other areas and urged stakeholders living around the lake to have a responsibility to protect, sustain and effectively manage harvesting and sustainable use of fisheries resources on the lake.
He said despite the importance of the lake economically, some unscrupulous stakeholders have deliberately resorted to illegal methods in fishing and trading fish products, thereby affecting the sustainability of the resource and its actual contribution to the growth of the national economy.
“It is obvious illegal fishing practices are rampant in any areas where fishing activities are carried out, especially Lake Victoria,” the Prime Minister said.
The PM said illegal fishing practices should not be continued in the country on the grounds that they have far-reaching consequences on the national economy, the country’s resources and environment.
He said according to a scientific study conducted in 2021 by the Lake Victoria Fisheries Institute in the lake, the Nile perch (Sangara) have decreased in Lake Victoria from 1,024, 623 tonnes in 2020 to 499, 398 tonnes in 2021, equivalent to a 50 per cent decrease.
He said Lake Victoria is known for its abundant fish species, but now many of them are at risk of extinction due to illegal fishing practices and environmental degradation.
He mentioned some of the fish that disappeared due to illegal fishing practices as labeo victorianus, alestopetersius leopoldimis, barbus acuticeps and petrocephalus catostroma,
and explained that the situation threatened the continued existence of the resource for the coming years if fishermen do not stop using unsustainable methods in fishing.
The Prime Minister said based on those facts, all fisheries stakeholders, including ministries, government institutions and the community have a wider responsibility to work with the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries to ensure the complete eradication of non-compliant fisheries for the sustainability of the country’s resources.
Giving the specific instructions, the Prime Minister urged all government institutions, local authorities, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and development partners to actively participate in the elimination of illegal fishing and trafficking practices.
He directed regional and district commissioners, council directors and all executives in the country to ensure that illegal fishing practices are stopped in their areas and all those found guilty of illegal fishing should be held accountable according to the law.
He said reporting of performance of their duties should also include management and protection of fisheries resources in the quarterly and annual reports from now.
He said since among the sources of revenue of the President’s Office are fishing activities, he directed every regional commissioner, administrative secretary, district commissioner and council director in collaboration with the Security Committees to ensure that there are no fishing and illegal activities in his/her area
“If the leader fails to uphold this responsibility s/he will be hold accountable,” he said.
He urged all government officials who are proved to have accepted bribes for illegal fishing practices and illegal trade in fishing products of any kind will face strict legal action, including being sacked from office.
He called on fishermen and fisheries stakeholders across the country to operate in accordance with the Fisheries Act and Regulations as well as other country’s laws.
“Whoever is nabbed committing illegal fishing activities will be brought to justice on the spot as we will not tolerate such practices anymore”, he stressed and urged the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries and the President’s Office to continue educating the public on the protection and sustainable management of fisheries resources in the country.
The Deputy Minister of Livestock and Fisheries, Abdallah Ulega said the government in this financial year has allocated a total of 110bn/- to develop the fisheries sector and the purchasing of fishing boats and their engines
Ulega said the money will also be used for aquaculture projects in fish cages, the construction of three beaches and seven markets, ice production plants and sardines drying nets.
“The aim is to reduce the loss of fisheries and increase its value and marketing fisheries products in the country,” he said.
He said out of the allocated funds, 50bn/- will be used for the construction of a fishing port which has already started at Kilwa Masoko in Kilwa district in Lindi region.
He said despite the government’s efforts, the fisheries sector provides 4.5 million jobs to Tanzanians across the value chain, including fisheries processors, traders, fishing equipment manufacturers, aquaculture keepers as well as food vendors.
He said the sector accounts for nearly 30 percent of animal-based protein and exported fishing products brings in foreign exchange earnings and the sector currently accounts for 1.8 per cent of the country’s GDP.
He said to enable the country to continue benefitting from fisheries resources, the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries has already put in place fisheries resource management mechanisms in the country, including the National Fisheries Policy 2015 implemented through the Fisheries Act No.22 of 2003, the Fisheries Regulations 2009 and its 2022 amendments as well as other state laws.
He said the Ministry has also started implementing the comprehensive Fisheries Sector Plan which was implemented for the period of 15 years from 2021/2022 to 2036/2037 aimed at strengthening the management and protection of fisheries resources in the country in order to have sustainable fisheries effective in the context of reducing poverty and unemployment.
“Another goal is to increase productivity, food security and GDP,” he said.
He said apart from these government initiatives, the Ministry has continued to face various operational challenges that have been undermining the achievement of the sustainable goal of fisheries and promoting the sector’s contribution to the national economy.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, Dk Rashid Tamatamah in terms of the success of the local fish industry, said for the year 2021, a total of 42,302.00 tonnes of fishing crops and 181,268 ornamental live fish worth 414.23bn/- were sold abroad.
“Lake Victoria accounted for 67 per cent (36,657.46 tonnes) worth 360.35 bn/-,” he said.
He said the government has facilitated small-scale fishermen and aquaculture keepers with 33bn/- in interest-free loans for the purchase of 160 boats and 682 fish cages which are expected to produce 60,000 tonnes.
“The government has also enabled seaweed (Mwani) farmers to increase production from 3,514 tonnes to 6,000 tones”, he said.
The representative of the Nile perch fishermen, Mr Augustino Gimasa urged the government to use the police force to enhance the security of fishermen in the lake, control encroachments including theft of fishermen’s property and equipment such as engines, nets as well as the arbitrary purchase of fish in the lake
The Tanzania Fishermen Association Chairperson Mr Baraka Kadapi said effective mechanisms should be sought to end the fishing challenge, explaining that the situation is even worse with allegations that 30 percent of illegal fishing activities are carried out by people linked to the government
“Without being realistic and patriotic, we cannot end the challenge of illegal fishing,” he said.