The fishing sector faces a number of problems, most of them self inflicted. Overfishing and illegal fishing are the order of the day in the Lake Zone.
Worse still, unscrupulous surveillance officials are directly or indirectly involved in fishing using small-mesh nets, which poses a big threat to the Nile Perch.
In one of his recent audit reports, Controller and Auditor General Ludovick Utouh noted that the amount of immature Nile Perch caught rose from 83,157 tonnes in 2008 to 84,782 tonnes in 2010 in Mwanza, Mara and Kagera regions.
Recent data published by the Tanzania Industrial Fishing and Processors Association indicates that though the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation wants a maximum biomass of 382,500 tons to remain in the Tanzania section of the lake, Nile Perch fishing overshot the limit by 57 per cent in 2012.
This left just an estimated 64,141 tons of fish for regeneration. But while these man-made challenges are interfering with the balance of nature in the lakes, the fuel levy is also making life difficult for those who depend on fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The government raised the fuel levy from Sh200 per litre to Sh263 per litre with the intention of collecting some Sh155.9 billion to help boost the Sh18.2 trillion 2013/14 budget.
But both the private sector and Livestock and Fisheries Development Minister Titus Kamani say the levy is discouraging investment in fishing in Tanzania’s EEZ, forcing operators to lay at anchor all their fishing boats. This levy is yet another man-made problem that should not have arisen in the first place. The government must swiftly come up with credible responses to these challenges.
Taking into account all the vehicles in Dar and other major cities, the government would still collect enough from the fuel levy even if the fisheries sector were to be exempted from the tax. We believe the economic impact--through jobs and fish exports--of dumping the levy will be enough to compensate for the lost tax.