Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: Illegal Fishing Must Be Brought to Halt

A RECENT survey has determined that 400 species of Lake Victoria fish have virtually vanished. One reason for this unfortunate scenario is the presence of the Nile perch which are voracious eaters of lesser fish. But the Nile perch are not the most notorious culprits.

The presence of illegal fishermen is the main canker. Some fishermen use dynamite to blast fish colonies or their breeding grounds ruining the ecological balance of the lake. The fishermen also use banned gear such as gillnets, monofilaments, beach seines and others.

These fishing gear have been banned mainly because they catch all sorts of fish including the young. Some fishers trap fish using poisonous chemicals such as Thionex or Thioden which are also dangerous to human health. This makes the fishermen heartless morons.

The medical world is aware that apart from being potential killers, Thionex and Theoden can cause impotence in men. These dangerous fish catches are sold in the entire Lake Zone. Some fried fish are shunted as far afield as Dar es Salaam and elsewhere. So no one is safe.

It is imperative to mention at the outset that these fishermen are economic saboteurs who should be stopped in their tracks. It is possible to replenish some of the vanishing fish stocks in the lake if illegal fishing is brought to a complete halt. But who will control the nefarious activities of these criminals?

Authorities have pledged close monitoring of their activities in a bid to curb the intensity of the damage, but how effective are they? Most fishing is done far offshore with hurricane lamps on dark nights. After all, some corrupt patrol groups collude with illegal fishermen offshore, away from prying eyes. So life goes on as the intensity of the damage escalates.

The other problem is that illegal fishermen also operate in Kenyan and Ugandan territorial lake waters. Most fish species in Lake Victoria roam in the entire lake without the least regard to what humans call national boundaries. This means that the school of fish that may have been enjoyed protection in Tanzania might not survive once it wanders across the border. This anomaly should be corrected. It is now or never.

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