Uganda and ten other African countries have started drafting a comprehensive policy that seeks to promote aquaculture, with the private sector as the major player.
The fisheries officials and government representatives from the Eastern Africa region meeting in Kampala on Tuesday said their governments have realised that the private sector can play a big role in boosting the contribution of the fishing industry to national income.
The officials met at Hotel Africana in Kampala to evaluate the contribution of the Africa Caribbean Pacific (ACP) phase II fish programme in strengthening fisheries management in their countries. The programme that winds up in November is funded by the European commission (EC).
The acting head of the fisheries sector for Uganda, Lovelock Wadanya, said the European Commission funded process of developing a regional policy framework for aquaculture was in advanced stages.
"The comprehensive policy framework will promote aquaculture as a business and encourage the private sector to take the lead," he added.
Wadanya said Uganda wants to use the framework to encourage large scale fish farming by identifying potential private sector players, assist them to access credit or enter into partnership with them to develop the fishing industry which is one of the largest foreign exchange earners for the country.
"We want a policy to promote value addition of our fish. Our lakes are open, we can give someone part of the lake to carry out cage farming," he added.
Wadanya explained that such a policy was urgently needed because fish stocks are rebounding. Uganda's fish stocks increased to about 200,000 metric tonnes in 2012 from 160,000 in 2006.
He was optimistic that the measures the Government is taking, such as issuing vessel number plates to license fishermen and the proposed introduction of fishing holidays on lakes, will go a long way in addressing illegal fishing.
"We are going to reduce the number of vessels on the lakes and criminalise many activities on our lakes now that the Government has provided funds to enable us effectively enforce the law," he added.
The ACP programme regional manager from Eastern Africa, Koane Mindjimba, said the EC was satisfied because most of the activities that focused on strengthening management of the fisheries resources have been implemented as the programme comes to a close.
He said the 30m Euro project was implemented under the improved fisheries policies, legislation and management plans at regional and national level.
It strengthened monitoring, control and surveillance capabilities, enhanced national and regional research strategies, improved business support and private sector investment.
It also increased knowledge sharing on management and trade components.