In Ghana Island of Ukerewe District in Mwanza Region of Tanzania, fishermen are preparing for a fishing expedition in the evening, accompanied by researchers from the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI). They are in the last stages of a study to identify which fishing nets are suitable for what locations inside Lake Victoria. It follows an ongoing crackdown on illegal fishing gear throughout the country.
The conclusion of this fishing trip has began providing answers to the suitability of different fishing nets. Already, there are signs that the fishermen are less impressed by their experience using the single-type nets recommended by the government.
“It is like we were out to catch birds of the air and not fish,” says Mkulasi Petro, a fisherman in Ghana Island, spreading an empty fishnet in his boat to drive his point home. His views are echoed by Niclaus Mwere, also a fisherman from the island.
“I have caught nothing since yesterday evening,” Mwere complains.
On the other hand, it could be that the tampering of scales used in weighing fish could be a contributing factor to encouraging illegal fishing.
The alleged corruption at the scales is making it difficult to earn a living for fishermen like Ally Rajab. He, like many of his colleagues is skeptical about whether efforts to eliminate the vice will be successful.
“As far as I am concerned, our work has been made very difficult and it will be difficult to do away with illegal fishing,” he maintains.
On his part, Bakari Kdabi, a representative of the Tanzania Fishers Union (TAFU) feels that unless cheating is stamped out at the weighing scales, then illegal fishing will still continue.
“Once he is cheated at the scales, the fisherman will find alternative means to maximize on his catch,” explains Kdabi. And the only way to attain his objective, he adds, is to involve himself in illegal activities.
Therefore, the coming together of fishermen and their leaders will hopefully help in dealing with the situation, should they have faith in the new report, which will be presented to the minister concerned.
As far as they are concerned, researchers are looking for ways and means of promoting sustainable fishing activities in the Lake.
“As researchers we are trying to find out whether the fish resources we have will still exist in the future if we continue harvesting it the way we are doing now,” says Phlilemon Nsinda, a researcher at TAFIRI.
Fishermen are looking forward to the research outcome, which will hopefully address their concerns, should the government take into account the recommendations raised in the report.
“We are hopeful that the research outcome will be presented to the Ministry, which will come up with a proposal for purposes of taking it to parliament, should there be any other recommendations different from what is in section 23 of the law, regarding the single-type net,” explains Jefta Machandali, Secretary General of TAFU.
It is clear though that many fishermen do not like the single-type net, according to Kdabi.
“We are saying that the nets are unsuitable for fishing in Lake Victoria, since it is evidently clear that wherever we use this net, we always come away empty-handed,” he says.
This translates to losses to the fisherman. He adds that this is something the government will be able to see in the report.
This study was carried out in Ikuza, Nkome, Nkome-Mchangani and Ghana using different types of nets. The single-type fishnet recommended by the government appears not be suitable for profitable fishing in Lake Victoria.