Nakasongola — Leaders in districts sharing Lake Kyoga have suspended fishing activities for two months to allow the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) coordinate the registration of fishermen and their boats.
The measure is aimed at regulating illegal fishing activities and conserving water bodies.
In a meeting also attended by FPU, at Amolatar District headquarters on Tuesday, the leaders endorsed several resolutions, including using only the recommended 28-inch boats.
"We have announced amnesty for everybody with illegal fishing gear to hand it over for destruction," Mr Sam Kigula, the chairperson of Lake Kyoga Integrated Management Organisation (Lakimo), said on Tuesday.
The districts under Lakimo include Nakasongola, Pallisa, Amolatar, Kamuli, Apac, Dokolo, Buyende, Kaliro, Soroti, Kaberamaido, Serere, Katakwi, Ngora, Dokolo and Kumi.
The move comes after the Ministry of Agriculture said boat owners must have the recommended size of boats and fishing gear, Tax Identification Numbers and National Identity cards.
Boat owners who are not fishermen are required to first secure fishing licences for their fishermen at Shs25,000 to be registered.
Mr Dan Muganga, the Nakasongola Resident District Commissioner, said Lakimo member districts together with FPU also resolved to evict residents settling on suds (floating Islands).
The settlers, mainly fishermen, have reportedly defied attempts by authorities to force them back to the main land.
"The district security committees have detailed reports regarding the criminal acts orchestrated by those people. They are lawless and irresponsible. Our resolve to have them back to the main land is to ensure that we do not have people who live a life full of criminality simply because they are not within the easy reach of the law enforcers," Mr Muganga said.
Ms Margaret Komuhangi, the Nakasongola District Woman MP, said the residents dispose of the wastes directly into the lake because they lack lavatory facilities and garbage pits.
"We had failed because all the sensitisation activities undertaken fell on deaf ears. We should now rally behind the UPDF to save the lake," Ms Komuhangi said
Lt Col James Nuwagaba, the FPU commander, commended the leaders for their cooperation to save the lake.
"There have been complaints by politicians, including the fishing community who claim their motorcycles and vehicles are illegally confiscated during our operations. So, with their support now, our work will be easy," he said.
Mr James Oloka, a fisherman from Namasale Landing Site in Amolatar, welcomed the suspension.
"We engaged in bad fishing methods and we are now regretting. The fish stock has drastically reduced and our families have to look for an alternative source of livelihood. We are only worried that we might not afford the 28-inch boats recommended on the lake. The boats are very expensive for an ordinary fisherman because they use engines," Mr Oloka said.
A recommended boat costs about Shs6m and above.
Suspension of fishing on Lake Kyoga comes three months after local leaders from Pallisa and Ngora districts also resolved to suspend all fishing activities on Lake Nyaguo to allow communities have standard fishing gear. A similar exercise kicked off on Lake Victoria last year where boat owners are already registering their boats.
Illegal fishing on Ugandan lakes has reduced fish stocks, especially in species such as tilapia, Nile perch and silver fish-something that has drastically affected the country's export earnings from fish.