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Manpower Shortage Hampers UPDF Operation Against Illegal Fishing

Crackdown on Illegal Fishing Nets and Young Fish in Entebbe
Crackdown on Illegal Fishing Nets and Young Fish in Entebbe

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The Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) has cited a persistent surge in illegal fishing activities, attributing it to a shortage of personnel deployed to combat these practices at various fishing grounds across Uganda.

Established in 2017 by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the FPU operates as a branch of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF), with the mandate to suppress illegal fishing and revive the economic viability of the fisheries sector.

Despite the FPU’s presence and operations at different landing sites and fishing villages, soldiers are grappling with the challenge of curbing illegal fishing practices, resulting in significant economic losses. Lieutenant Reuben Ndifula, FPU Spokesperson, links the ongoing trend of illegal fishing to the insufficient manpower required to effectively subdue offenders.

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Addressing the media after an operation in Kalungu and Mpigi districts on Lake Victoria waters, Ndifula highlighted the high population density at many landing sites, creating fertile grounds for offenders to operate stealthily. While Ndifula refrains from providing specific numbers of FPU personnel, he acknowledges that the available workforce struggles to monitor all landing sites consistently.

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In addition to ongoing operations against illegal fishing, the FPU is exploring engagement with fish vendors and consumers to discourage the tolerance of immature fish and encourage reporting of culprits.

Despite the FPU’s efforts, Ndifula notes that some offenders manage to evade capture, necessitating a reevaluation of operations to address the persisting problem. Meanwhile, Fredrick Ggesa Mwitale, the Masaka District Fisheries Officer, emphasizes the need for government profiling of all players in the fisheries sector. This includes fishermen, owners, boat makers, traders, and occupational fish transporters. Mwitale argues that maintaining comprehensive records enables law enforcement teams to track wrongdoers more efficiently than relying on roadblocks and risky pursuits on water bodies.

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The FPU’s ongoing operations have resulted in the arrest and prosecution of thousands of culprits, along with the confiscation of tons of illegal fishing gear and undersized fish. Despite these achievements, the FPU acknowledges the need for innovative approaches to eliminate persistent illegal fishing practices.