The dip in supply has affected fish prices. A kilogram of Tilapia fish at Butiaba, landing site costs 15, 000 shillings now. It cost 4, 500 shillings mid last year. Nile Perch fish costs between 8000 shillings to 12000 shillings depending on the size. Mid last year, a buyer could purchase a single Nile Perch fish at 2, 000 shillings. A kilogram of Hychosynus, locally known as Ngasa is at shs8,000 up from 3500.
Fishermen and Fishmongers say the fish supply from Lake Albert, the region’s major fish hub, has gone down. They attribute the low fish supply to a decision by fishermen to switch to Silverfish (Mukene) fishing on the lake because of the expense of gillnetting.
Gillnetting is the fishing method used for catching fish species like Tilapia and Nile Perch among others.
Oscar Uvon Muhammad, a fisherman and Vice Chairperson Piida A Beach Management Unit (BMU) at Butiaba landing site in Buliisa district, says more than 90 percent of the 1,500 fishermen at the landing site, have switched to Mukene fishing.
Uvon says this follows a government crackdown on undersize fishing gears on the Lake Albert last year.
The BMU official says Mukene fishing nets are a bit cheaper than the recommended 4-inch gillnets. He says Mukene fishing net can be acquired at around one million shillings, as opposed to gillnets which cost 6.5million shillings.
Uvon says unless government comes helps to reduce the cost of the gillnets, the supply of other fish types on the market will continue to go down.
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Statistics at the Butiaba Beach Management office indicate that the fish catch at the landing site, has reduced from 100 tonnes a month to less than 10 tonnes now.
Abdul Hakim Araali, a fisherman at Butiaba landing site, says the fisheries law enforcement team burnt all his fishing nets last year. He says he could not easily raise money for the recommended 4-inch gear. Hakim says he has since switched to Mukene whose nets he can afford.
Butiaba is the largest landing site on Lake Albert and a major fish supplier in Bunyoro.
The dip in supply has affected fish prices. A kilogram of Tilapia fish at Butiaba, landing site costs 15, 000 shillings now. It cost 4, 500 shillings mid last year.
Nile Perch fish costs between 8000 shillings to 12000 shillings depending on the size. Mid last year, a buyer could purchase a single Nile Perch fish at 2, 000 shillings. A kilogram of Hychosynus, locally known as Ngasa is at shs8,000 up from 3500.
The change in prices is reflected at Hoima Central Market. A kilogram of fresh Tilapia is now at 7000 shillings up from shs4000; a Nile Perch is at 8,000 shillings up from 7,000shillings.
Traders like Ronald Kasule explain that the price hikes are a result of dwindling supplies in Buseruka and Buliisa where he gets the fish.
Friday Merabu, who deals in dry fish, says a bunch she used to buy from her suppliers at 5,000 shillings has now doubled to 10,000 shillings. She says that the lot she used to buy at 10,000 is now at 20,000 shillings.
Merabu says the few suppliers are now monopolizing the business to hike the prices. She says, as a result she has revised her market prices by 1000 shillings for each fish to still make a profit.
Uganda Radio Network (URN) was unable to get Fisheries officials in Buliisa and Hoima to comment on the matter as all their phones were switched off at the time of filing the story.
Ministry of fisheries last year deployed law enforcement officers to crackdown on fishing nets below 4-inches on all Ugandan waters. At Butiaba Landing site alone, undersize fishnets worth billions of shillings were burnt down.
Although fishermen say the crackdown has been detrimental to their business, Fisheries Minister Ruth Nankabirwa said the operation was to conserve the fish resource by avoiding immature fishing.
The minister made the remarks while launching the operation on Lake Albert in August last year.