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Fishermen smile all the way to the bank as stocks increase

Monday March 02 2020
FISHERMEN PIC

Minister for Livestock and Fisheries, Mr Luhaga Mpina

Mwanza. Tanzania’s fish imports have gone down by a whopping 99.8 percent in the past four years, thanks to increased local output, fueled by the authorities’ efforts to curb illegal fishing in the country’s waters.

The government launched a crackdown on illegal fishing in November 2018, with the minister for Livestock and Fisheries, Mr Luhaga Mpina, saying illegal fishing resulted in depletion of fish stocks in the country’s lakes, forcing Tanzania to spend more money to import fish.

Available data now show that, with improved management of fish resources across the ocean and lakes, fish stocks improved significantly.

As a result, the country has been able to reduce the amount it spends on importing fish from Sh55.9 billion four years ago to only Sh100 million, a principal fisheries officer for the Lake Victoria’s main zone, Mr Roman Mkenda, told The Citizen recently.

He said the move was a blessing to the country because the money was now being injected into the circulation from where it was boosting other sectors of the economy.

“A research into fish stocks in Lake Victoria conducted in 2018 showed that 0.4 percent of all the fish in the lake were of a reproductive age and therefore, unfit to be fished. It was only 3.3 percent of the stock that was fit to be caught,” he said.

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After the crackdown, however, the percentage of fish in the reproductive age has risen to 5.2 percent. The stock that can be legally fish also rose to 32 percent, said Mr Mkenda.

Also, the government is working with various partners within the fisheries development arena to boost fish stocks in Tanzanian waters across the Indian Ocean, lakes, rivers and dams.

“We have started with 25 cooperative societies in the Lake Victoria zone whereby members receive loans from the Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank,” he said.

The chairman of the union of fish traders at Kamanga Market in Mwanza, Mr Abdallah Simba, said after raising fish stocks, the government should now shift focus to strengthen its revenue collection mechanism from fish proceeds.

Under the existing mechanism, much of the revenues collected from fish proceeds end up in the pockets of a few greedy individuals.

“At Kamanga, there are 185 people who deal in fish. But, the truth is that less than 50 of them pay due taxes to the relevant authorities,” he said.

A fisherman at Kirumba, George Joseph, told The Citizen that with the significant rise in fish stocks, he is now assured of catching between 10 and 20 Nile perch daily, each measuring between 50 and 80 centimeters. He also goes home with several tilapia measuring more than 25 centimeters each in length.

“We thank the government for its crackdown on illegal fishing. We can now see the fruits of that decision,” he said.

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