Mayuge — The Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) under the marine section of the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF), has arrested 24 people and destroyed about 300 illegal fishing boats and gear.
The 24 suspects were arrested on Monday from Malongo, Bukakabu, Luufu, Namugongo and Lingira landing sites and detained at Namugongo Police Post in Mayuge District.
According to the in-charge Jinja and Mayuge Fisheries Protection Unit, Lt Ronald Akandwanaho, illegal fishing is currently rife on Lake Victoria.
"There is an increase in illegal fishing on Lake Victoria over the last one month after legislators complained of the army beating fishermen. The fishermen have made under-size boats and bought prohibited nets which pose a challenge to us," Lt Akandwanaho said.
He added that when the suspects are handed to police and given bond, they relocate to other landing sites without being charged before courts of law.
Mr Michael Okello, one of the suspects from Bukakabu Landing Site, explained that there is plenty of fish in the water but he cannot afford the required fishing gear as they are expensive.
Mr Charles Bukomba, a 54-year-old fisherman from Namugongo Landing Site, said it will take time for the UPDF marine to fight illegal fishing because illegal gear has been smuggled into the country which promotes the vice.
Mr Musa Dhikusooka, the Association of Fishermen and Lake Users of Uganda (AFALU) chairman in Mayuge District, said people complaining against the operation are influenced by politicians.
"They forget that the operation is meant to boost their activity not only in terms of quantity of fish but also in quality," he said.
On October 2, Uganda People's Defence Forces soldiers attached to Fisheries Protection Unit, impounded more than 100 illegal boats and fishing gear at Mpanga and Maruba landing sites on the shores of Lake Victoria in Buhema Sub-county, Namayingo District.
Soldiers under the command of Cpt Joseph Ssebukera, also arrested more than 30 fishermen who were found with the illegal gear.
Cpt Ssebukera said: "We confiscated over 100 illegal boats, 300 monofilament nets and arrested 30 fishermen who were in possession of the illegal fishing gears. We destroyed all the illegal items we confiscated." He explained that the arrested fishermen were handed over to the police to be charged accordingly.
"But the failure by court to give deterrent punishment to the people who are found with illegal gears has been a big challenge," he said.