IT has been reported that the Minister for Livestock and Fisheries, Luhaga Mpina, has impounded 65.6 tonnes of fish worth 300m/-. The fish, it has been alleged, were illegally caught in Lake Victoria just off Rubili Island in Muleba District.
The contraband was destined for export to Uganda and Rwanda, it has been alleged. This is a job well done by the minister. Illegal fish exports are too rampant in the Lake Victoria Zone. Here illegal fishermen are known to shunt their catches at night to distant markets.
This, we have said umpteen times, is economic sabotage that is punishable by law. So, it is accolades to the minister who, we are told, ordered that the cargo be auctioned, with the purchasing priority going to local business people.
But these are not the only fish thieves. It is imperative to mention here that Tanzanian reforms in marine services are required so that the country can earn more revenue from deep sea fishing. Here we are talking about the Indian ocean territory.
National benefit from deep sea fishing is, indeed, insignificant. Tanzania has a wide sea territory that teems with fish. The nation has potential for vast fish populations that, quite often, attract foreign companies. Many foreign fishing ships come in our territorial ocean waters because of the available fish.
They mainly hunt for the celebrated tuna. They also capitalize quite befittingly on our weak regulations in licensing. Yes, they pay 50,000 US dollars to fish tuna. But we do not have capacity to monitor the whole fish catch, do we? So, Tanzania Deep Sea Fishing Authority (DSA) should review its licensing regulations alongside possible revival of ‘Tanzania Fishing Company (Tafico)’.
More fishing companies should be instituted to widen the scale of collecting fishing resources. Tanzania has been losing a lot in deep sea fishing just because of not ‘thinking out of the box’ much to the advantage of foreign companies.
This includes questionable use of Tanzanian flags by foreign ships. And many local seamen are denied jobs in the ships. At the moment the government is encouraging a widely practiced fish farming initiative with the upshot being sealing the current deficit which stands at 400,000 tonnes a year. It has been determined that offshore fishing is not productive enough.
Although the nation consumes 700,000 tonnes of fish annually, irresponsible fishing, that has also caused environmental degradation, has reduced the amount of fish catches, not only in the Indian Ocean, but also in Lake Victoria and elsewhere.
It is this shortfall of 400,000 tonnes of fish which prompts the nation to import about 200,000 tonnes from China annually. Nevertheless, while urging small-scale fish farmers to help out in sealing the gap and creating jobs, the State needs to look elsewhere.
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.