At least 5,000 fishermen and fishmongers are stranded after Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Husbandry closed several fishing handling facilities over poor hygiene.
The affected facilities are at Ddimo, Golo, Kasenyi and many other places.
Mr. Tom Bukenya, the acting commissioner of fisheries regulations and control, said the handling facilities lacked minimum standards ’’despite being gazetted, they are below the required standard in terms of hygiene, we do not want the fish we get from there to affect our international market,’’ he said.
Dr. Edward Rukunya, the director fisheries, said authorities at the handling facilities had been warned several times to improve sanitation.
He said inspection of landing sites on the eastern side of Lake Victoria is ongoing, adding that those without minimum hygiene standards comprising at least a public pit-latrine will be closed.
Mr. Willy Lugoloobi, the Kalangala chairperson, faulted the ministry officials for closing the facilities before engaging district authorities.
However, Mr. Jackson Baguma, the district fisheries officer, said they had received notice of closure.
“Entry and exit of people at the fish handling facility has to be restricted to avoid compromising standards,” he said.
Kalangala has 56 landing sites but only eight are gazetted.
In the past couple of years, the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) under the Uganda People’s Defence Forces soldiers has closed several fish landing sites for engaging in illegal fishing
Lt Col James Nuwagaba, the FPU commander, said the landing sites were being used by unscrupulous fishermen to deplete the lake.
The fisheries industry is the second largest foreign exchange earner, contributing 2.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 12 per cent to agricultural GDP. According to Ministry of Agriculture records, Uganda has a fish capture potential of 750,000 tonnes annually, the current production is at 461,000 tonnes and 100,000 tonnes from aquaculture.