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Celebrating World Wetlands Day (WWD) 2020

As you may be aware, the 2nd of February each year the World celebrates the World Wetlands Day (WWD) as a day set aside to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and our planet. This year the theme for WWD is “Wetlands and Biodiversity” and the National slogan was “Life thrives in Wetlands-protect them. As part of the celebrations to mark the day, Nature Uganda organized a Public talk under the topic “Fisheries of Uganda, opportunities and challenges”. We were privileged to host Dr. Rukuunya Edward from the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries who gave a presentation about the topic. The public talk was scheduled for Thursday 6th February 2020 at the Uganda Museum.

The fisheries subsector is categorized into capture fisheries and aquaculture (fish farming) Capture fisheries involves catching fish from the natural water bodies using various fishing gears and methods. The capture fisheries industry is dominated by both large and small fish species of high value in local, regional and international markets. Fish is a strategically important commodity of nutritional and high economic value to the fisher folk, smallholder fish farmers and other households in the country.

There are a number of opportunities in the subsector with almost 20% of the Uganda’s surface area i.e. Lakes Victoria, Kyoga, Albert/Albert Nile and George/Edward and over 160 minor water bodies on top of swamps, wetlands, rivers and floodplains. The existence of many wetlands is also a blessing because these wetlands harbor a diversity of fish species some of which are deemed extinct or endangered in the major lakes a case example of Kyoga minor lakes and wetlands. This leaves without saying that such must be protected.

The fisheries sector has an opportunity to support over 1.3m people mostly youth in fishing and artisanal women processors and accounts for an estimated 50% of the total dietary protein intake. Wetlands and other water resources supports many farmed fish species i.e. Nile Tilapia, African catfish and the common carp where women and youth can be engaged in production to earn a livelihood. With the possible domestication of high value species such as the Nile perch and Labeo (Ningu), the number of domesticated fish species is on increase to the opportunity of farmers.

There is increased demand for fish of high economic value like Nile perch and Tilapia species for national, regional and international markets. The community is encouraged to protect wetlands and fish responsibly. Destruction of wetlands and catching of immature fish leads to decline in fish stocks and hence reduced fish catches, and incomes by fishermen and boat owners, reduced food for families, reduced taxes to government and hence reduced services to the community.

The byproduct value chain is gaining international market i.e. the Nile perch fish maw (swim bladder) and on the local market for fish bones (Mugongowazi), a common delicacy for the least privileged communities and rich in some nutrients. Nile perch fats are being promoted because of their richness in Omega 3 oils that are beneficial to brain and this is an opportunity to exploit.

The recovering fish stocks in our water bodies and increased fish exports is in line with industrialization for wealth creation and good for national economy, employment and livelihood. The continued aquaculture growth observed at 6% is a blessing to farmers and this growth has come up from wetlands (20,000 fishponds) and from 3,000 cages made of 13,000 fish farmers.

There are however still challenges to fisheries resource sustainability and these include: Pressure on the fish habitats both major lakes, minor and wetlands; outdated laws to support sustainability; reduced co-management support at grassroots level and invasion by weeds.

In conclusion, collaboration of all players (private and public) is required if we are to achieve sustainable wetland and fisheries management for the benefit of all Ugandans and the international community. Wetlands are critical for sustaining fisheries production and must be protected. The NEMA laws should be observed to enhance fisheries benefits to communities.

Below is the presenation of the day:

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