Single fishing law for Lake Victoria still far off

01Jan 2018
The Guardian
Single fishing law for Lake Victoria still far off

CALLS are being issued by unions of fishermen in Mwanza Region that the breadth of Lake Victoria be placed under a single regime when it comes to how the fishing is conducted, especially with regard to technical specificities on the tools, fishing nets.

An official of such a union told a daily newspaper early December that such a regime is relevant and helpful for proportional fishing capacity, as it appears that Tanzania has more stringent regulation on fishing nets width, compared to the two other riparian states.  It means that fishermen on this side of the lake are being shortchanged, relatively, by laxity on the other side.

The official himself was suggesting that in acceding to that common EAC regulation (or law) on fishing gear in Lake Victoria, the five inch nets that Uganda and Kenya permit be the regulatory norm, instead of seven inches that is applicable on the southern part of the lake. It means that those who fish from this side leave plenty of fish for their competitors to harvest, on account of more stringent regulation on our side, if it is for our benefit (to enable fish to multiply) or for common benefit, as fish can't be tamed on this side per se. The (retired) fisherman however didn't think firstly of the conservation parameter but ability to get a good catch.

Looking at the suggestion from a distance, one may not share the veteran fisherman's apprehensions despite that it is true our fishermen are obliged to leave catch that the other side may partake of. But what this means on the long run is a slightly different matter, as fish circulate (for instance to escape predators) but they also have some defined territories (how they occupy them in what modality amid the constant chasing is a different matter). Thus fishing gear introduces an ecological reality of easier escape for fish in the southern part and more difficult survival in the northern part, which may finally become apparent to fish.

When there is an ecological variation of a significant intensity like noticeable difference in the size of fish that can be caught, it has a way of catching up with fish multiplication by ecological zones in the lake. The parameters require some intensive work but those who thought up the idea of wider nets didn't just think of conservation without benefits, as it is genuinely the case that the benefits might turn up too, either at present or in due course. Those on the other side know this too, but may hope that they can clear their area of fish more rapidly, but as fish must constantly move, get replacements to scant multiplication, so it doesn't matter.

So it is possible that there is a game of hide and seek where all of East Africa knows that fish nets of five inches are far too small for sustainability of fishing in the area, but as in the game known as Prisoner's Dilemma, each holds out for another to act. Kenya has a particularly narrow or small area of the lake, so it may not feel inclined to act as it fishes on a small area, while chuckling that the fish shall come from other areas to it gets a good chance, catch. Uganda is close to Kenya or side by side to it, knows Kenya won't change the gear so it will not change it as well. Tanzania fishes farther south, and acts alone ecologically.  We sacrifice a bit, but it is worth it, so let us keep it up.