Illegal and unregulated fishing has become a common practice on Lake Edward. In the past years Lake Edward produced between 12 to 15 tonnes of fish per day; currently fish deficiency is visible in Kyavinyonge fishing community.
“The current fishing situation at Kyavinyonge - DRC on Lake Edward is not promising. Fish production has dropped so much; it is no longer like it was in 2017-2018. Several social - economic, security, and technical problems are at the root of the unproductivity. Our fishermen are often arrested in Uganda, our canoes and nets often thrown by Ugandan naval forces for failure to meet fishing standards." says MUKOHE RODRIGUES, the manager at Cooperative des Pêcheries de Virunga station in Kyavinyonge.
MBUSA KAVASA Noé, the president of fishermen in Kyavinyonge also notes that the community has up to 250 boat owners whose biggest challenge is fish scarcity on the DRC side of Lake Albert areas of Kyanika, Nyakakoma, Vitchumbi, Kasindi port, Kyavinyonge and Kisaka. This is majorly caused by illicit fishing practice on the lake under the protection of rogue agents claiming to be from the government."
“The Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN)’s position of assigning registration numbers to identify DRC canoes from the Ugandan canoes is one of the solutions to the problems of illegal fishing; the DRC government must provide license plates - In Uganda Kikungu, there is already a license plate application and this puts fishing activities to order; and efficiently regulate fishing activities to wean out illegal fishing. Second, the lake must be monitored to the point of cleaning up the spawning ground and once the regulations are well followed, DRC side will regain good fish productivity as it is on the Ugandan side.” adds MBUSA KAVASA Noé.
“Article 36 of the DRC law gives the ICCN power to control the protected areas of Lake Edward. It is the ICCN’s duty to identify the canoes and fishermen who can work within that area. “The plates are issued individually for each canoe owner at the Fisheries Department or ICCN. Plate owners are authorized to operate on a single canoe equipped with 10 minimum mesh nets of 4.5 mm (inchs). Theoretically, only license plate owners have a canoe, each boat is then numbered to allow controls and verifications by the Department of Fisheries. But to the surprise some fishing canoes operate with a crew of nets from 4.4 to 3.9mm, which is prohibited by law, and the owners operate without worry, especially for the case of tilapia fishing. Generally, the fisherman goes to the fishing grounds in the evening to cast the nets, picks them up very early in the morning (at dawn) and brings back his catch in the morning. So, most illicit fishermen slip away for illegal fishing, spending many days on the lake and believing that they will have a lot of production. This is how they destroy breading places hunting young fish and pregnant females - directly fighting growth and reproduction.This illegal fishing is applied at all levels and creates a multiplicity of canoes and fisheries”. COPEVI manager Kyavinyonge worries.
Due to the prolonged suffering of fish communities on Lake Edward, fishermen in Kyavinyonge, plead with the government to prevail on illegal fishing and ‘clean up’ the lake. "We want the government to help us protect this lake so that we have the same production as in the past. We are faced with challenges while chasing the fish towards Uganda and this is the basis of our everyday arrest. The Ugandans know how to protect the fish from their side and that is what takes us fishing across; we are victims of a circumstance that does not allow us to even pay for our children's schooling
Unfortunately, enforcement agencies that are supposed to regulate fishing for good production are at the forefront of receiving money to protect illegal fishing. When they catch illicit fishermen, they free them in exchange for bribes; it is another form of commerce on the lake. We therefore ask government to pay enforcement agents well to wean out corruption.” says Mr. RAMADA KAKULE.
Most of the Lake Edward fishing area is located opposite the Kisenyi fishing camp. Canoes equipped with outboard motors are able to reach this territory from other villages such as Katwe, Kazinga and Rwenshama. Paddle canoes have less latitude and a significant portion of their fishing effort is likely to be in a less productive area. The DRC occupies 75% of the lake's water compared to Uganda's 25% but this is not used rationally. In addition, the increase in the riparian population is one of the causes of the overexploitation of the lake: people from the highlands have already descended in multitudes to invading the lake and this population will have a big bearing on the activities around the lake.
PALULU TAHAWASIMA Elias, National Technical Support Expert - DRC
KAVIRA KYALWAHI Denise, Environmental journalist from Naturelcd.net