The ongoing boat registration exercise has gained steam with 15,000 boats so far entered in government data base, Daily Monitor has established .
Mr Tom Bukenya, the assistant regulations commissioner at Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, during an interview at the weekend, said of the 15,000 boats, at least 13,500 have received permanent identification number plates on Lake Victoria alone.
Mr Bukenya said 45,000 fishermen on Lake Victoria have also been registered and issued with renewable operational licences of Shs100,000 each, annually.
However, registration of boats is yet to commence on lakes Albert, Edward and George.
"We have delayed to extend the registration exercise to those lakes because there are still some issues we are sorting out. There are more people (fishermen) there than what is recommended, so we need to screen them first," he said.
On Lake Kyoga, Mr Bukenya said, soldiers under the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) are carrying out operations against illegal fishing practices and once they are done, registration will commence.
In 2018, government through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, issued a directive to all boat owners in the country, to register their boats upon meeting the set standards in a move aimed at regulating illegal fishing activities and conserving Uganda's water bodies.
According to the ministry, boat owners must have the recommended size of boats and fishing gears, Tax Identification Numbers and National Identity cards. Boat owners, who are not fishermen, need to first secure licences for their fishermen at Shs25,000 each in order to be registered.
Mr Bukenya said the exercise would simplify their work of developing a national data base for all boat owners.
"In the past, it was difficult to track down owners of the boats when they engage in illegal fishing. But it is becoming easier to track wrong elements on Lake Victoria and we want to replicate the same on all water bodies across the country," he said.
Mr Bukenya said there are at least 3,000 gazetted landing sites across various lakes in the country.
Feedback from landing sites
Mr Fred Sserwada, the chairperson of Mayanzi Landing Site in Kigungu Sub-ward in Entebbe Municipality, said he is optimistic that registration of both fishermen and their boats will help identify wrong elements operating on the lake.
"Standardising fishing activities was long overdue and we are happy that sanity is returning on the lake. Everyone was masquerading as fishermen including criminals who run away from the mainland," he said.
However, Mr Abdul Magid Nakwaki, the Buvuma District fisheries officer, said of the 5,300 boats estimated to be operating in the district, only 2,800 boats have fulfilled the requirements.
"We are going to receive another team from the Fisheries ministry next week [this week] to register more boats and we appeal to all boat owners and fishermen to participate," he said.
Closed fishing sites
Mr Bukenya revealed that three of the six handling fishing facilities that were recently closed due to poor sanitation are still closed.
"Among the facilities we closed, three complied and three others including Bumeru B in Namayingo, Ggolo in Mpigi and Mweena in Kalangala are still closed after failing to comply," Mr Bukenya said.
Genesis of registration. A couple of years ago, leaders from the three East African member states of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, which share Lake Victoria resolved that all fishing boats on the lake must have number plates before being authorised to ply the lake to arrest the near-to-nothing fish stocks situation.
In 2011, the Ministry of Fisheries, through the amended Fish Act 2010 re-centralised issuing of licences.
The ministry set Shs100,000 as annual license fee for small boats and Shs200,000 for large scale fishing boats.
This was aimed at regulating fishing activities and conserve lakes in the country.