Illegal fishers are economic saboteurs


THE National Assembly was told yesterday that illegal fishing still existed in nearly all national water bodies and that the most notorious fishers use banned gear such as gillnets, monofilaments, beach seines and others to snare fish.

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. The illegal fishing gear have been banned mainly because they catch all sorts of fish including the young.

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. Other offending fishermen use dynamite to blast fish colonies or their breeding grounds ruining the ecological balance of the lake, river or ocean.

The state intends to table in the National Assembly a Bill that would suggest amendments to the current Fishing Act. The upshot, it is hoped, would be a clear-cut declaration that dynamite fishing and all other forms of illegal fishing are an economic sabotage.

The move in this direction gathered momentum a few months ago when 13 suspected dynamite fishermen abandoned a tonne of fish at the Dar es Salaam fish market, sensing the possibility of apprehension.

The state has ordered that the culprits be arrested and prosecuted. The Indian Ocean shoreline is not the only location infested by illegal fishermen. A recent survey has determined that 400 species of Lake Victoria fish have virtually vanished.

The presence of illegal fishermen is the main canker in this unfortunate situation. Some fishermen use dynamite to blast fish colonies or their breeding grounds ruining the ecological balance of the lake.

Some fishers trap fish using Thionex or Thioden which are poisonous chemical compounds that are dangerous to human health.

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