By Nyamiti Kayora and Sylvester Bulengela
In Nyamatongo village, Sengerema District of Mwanza Province can be found Joseph Kando Mkama, a well known fisherman, who goes by the name “The Dove” among his contemporaries. He has just been caught by law enforcers in possession of illegal fishing nets worth more than 1 billion Tanzanian shillings ($440,000).
Mkama is in contravention of the government’s directive to surrender illegal fishing gear by the March 1st deadline, in the first phase of an operation to rid Lake Victoria of such equipment. He had hidden some of the equipment by burying it in the farm and inside a house that was under construction.
“It was difficult to discover the illegal equipment given the region’s terrain and the fact that crops had already grown,” said Wenceslaus Ruhasile, Operation Commander in charge of Sengerema and Buchosa districts. He thanked the intelligence given to his team, which led them to the confiscation of the gear.
The government’s operation has uncovered a new type of illegal fishing net used in Lake Victoria, pointing to rampant cases of illegal fishing in the Lake.
“Judging by the design, these nets appear to have the potential for causing more harm,” added Ruhasile.
He explained that this type of net has 400 holes along its breadth and 600 holes along its length. Some of the nets were also recovered from a hill where they were hidden.
The accused fisherman confessed to carrying out illegal fishing for many days, fully aware it was against the law.
“I have been using the nets for a very long time,” said Kando, the accused fisherman. He reiterated that no fisherman is insulated from the law and begged for leniency.
Ruhasile explained that government officials identified five areas where the nets had been buried. Twenty-four motor boat engines were also impounded in the operation.
In addition to destroying the illegal fishing gear by burning – in accordance with the fishing law of 2003 section 23 – the offender is made to pay a steep fine.
“Generally, up to 240 million Tanzanian shillings ($105,386) fine is imposed for undermining the economy, which should be paid within 24 hours,” stressed Magese Bulai, the General Manager, Fisheries.
This is the second phase of the operation aimed at putting a stop to illegal fishing that has undermined the fish resource for a very long time.
This story was supported by a story grant from InfoNile and Code for Africa. It was originally published on Star TV. Video in Swahili