Illegal fishermen are economic saboteurs


IT CAME to light early this week that a woman of Indian nationality has been arraigned over possession of prohibited fishing gear valued at 426m/-.

The suspect, a trader, denied the charge but was ordered to surrender her passport and await a mention date. The accused met all bail conditions, some of which were quite stiff, and walked out of the courtroom.

It is not our intention to prejudice the impending legal procedures. However, we expect fair justice to take its course. It is imperative to mention here that farther afield, illegal fishing has become a nagging headache. It is a nasty canker that is worrisome to this nation. Illegal fishermen use banned gear such as gill-nets, monofilaments, beach seines and others to snare fish. The illegal fishin

g gear have been banned mainly because they catch all sorts of fish including the young. Other offending fishermen use dynamite to blast fish colonies or their breeding grounds ruining the ecological balance of the lake, river or ocean.

The most offensive fishers, however, trap fish using Thionex or Thioden which are poisonous chemical compounds that are dangerous to health. The medical world is aware that apart from being potential killers, Thionex and Thioden can cause impotence in men.

The most notorious fishermen in this category work on Lake Victoria. Their highly dangerous fish catches are sold in the entire Lake Zone and some of their fried fish are shunted countrywide.

Another crop of criminals fish just off the ocean shore. So no one is safe. These fishermen can justifiably be classified as economic saboteurs who should be stopped in their tracks.

Lake Victoria hosts most of these dare-devil miscreants. But who will control the nefarious activities of these criminals? Authorities have pledged close monitoring of their activities in a bid to curb the intensity of the damage, but how effective are they? Most fishing is done far offshore with hurricane lamps on dark nights.

After all, some corrupt patrol groups collude with illegal fishermen offshore, away from prying eyes. So life goes on as the intensity of the damage escalates.

The other problem is that illegal fishermen also operate in Kenyan and Ugandan territorial lake waters. Most fish species in Lake Victoria roam in the entire lake without the least regard to what humans call national boundaries.

This means that the school of fish that may have been enjoyed protection in Tanzania might not survive once it wanders across the border. It is important, therefore, to have an instrument in the East African Community that monitors illegal fishing in the entire lake.

Monitoring the activities of illegal fishers on only one portion of the lake may not offer enough protection to fish stocks.

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