Chief of Defence Forces Katumba Wamala has describe immature fish dealers as economic saboteurs saying that if it were in other countries they would face the firing squad.
Wamala was appearing before Parliament’s Agriculture Committee to explain the Kalangala incident recently in the media involving rally driver Ponsiano Lwakataka.
Lwakataka stands accused of dealing in immature fish. Upon arrest, allegations surfaced that Lwakataka had been able to evade arrest for a long time because he is abetted by persons of high rank in government.
He told the committee that he prevailed over the matter since Lwakataka was mentioning the CDF, the IGP and the Fisheries Minister to be in the know and part of his business.
Wamala noted that people involving themselves in illegal acts like fishing immature fish are economic saboteurs and they should not be treated like ordinary criminals.
He recommended a review of a legal frame work on the fisheries sector to make it more stringent and riskier for the perpetuators. He noted that this would also help to re-enforce the efforts of the department of fisheries.
“Because to me somebody who is denying the country getting 400m dollars in the year, only for the country to get 33m dollars is an economic saboteur, he can’t be treated like an ordinary criminal, this is economic sabotage, if they were to be countries like the ones I may not mention possibly those people would have gone on a firing squad,” Wamala noted.
Wamala noted that the act of dealing in immature fish was heavily affecting the fishing industry and depleting the country’s fish stock.
He told the Agriculture Committee that reports currently display a decline in foreign exchange earnings of the international export of the Nile Punch from 36,600tonnes in 2005 which was fetching 143m dollars decreasing to 18500tonnes fetching 88m dollars.
He further noted that the value of informal regional trade in fish increased from 38m dollars in 2005 to a peak of 56m dollars in 2008 but it decreased to 27m dollars in 2011 saying that the bulk of this trade is illegal since it deals in grossly undersized fish.
CDF Wamala also noted that the practice of fishing immature fish increases unemployment problem in the country.
He said that the livelihood surrounding the fishing industry is estimated to employ about 4million people but may not be able to employ these people in the next 10 years if fish stock continue to dwindle.
Wamala also highlighted a threat of investment risk and closure of industries saying that out of the 21 factories that had been licensed by 2005 with an investment of about 200m, only 14 are now operational and 7 have closed. Even those 14 operate below capacity.
He named factories that closed due to lack of fish as Gomba Industries in Jinja, Fish Water Fish Exporters in Masaka, Iguru Food Industries, Masese Fish Packers, Victoria Food Exporters, World Catch Fish Limited Buliisa and Tropical Fish Industries in Kampala.
He told the Committee that he was told that about 7000 youth were left unemployed due to the closure of these 7 industries.
Wamala pointed out factors that have hindered the eradication of illegal fishing citing corruption within the fishing sector include inefficient courts, poor facilitation of fisheries officers, importation of illegal nets, desire for quick money and a weak legal system.
He recommended increase of funding to the fisheries sector in order to improve on facilitation of staff in the sector. He cautioned against letting fisheries officers stay in one area of operation too long as they tend to succumb to corruption and bribes.
He also cited a need for restocking the water bodies citing that the three great lakes between Canada and the US they have a breeding facility where every six months the flies are made and restocked into the lakes.
He said that depending on natural production alone may be asking for too much hence a need for a policy for restocking water bodies.
The Chairperson of the Agriculture Committee Kasamba Mugerwa suggested for fishing holidays saying that Fishing activities should go on holiday to allow fish to mature.