COVID-19: Fishing temporarily stopped on Lake Albert

Authorities in Uganda have asked fishermen in Lake Albert to strictly adhere to the new directive to ensure that they prevent the virus from spreading in the region.

Armies are heavily been deployed on Lake Albert to ensure that no fisherman goes into the lake.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread globally, many countries including Uganda are putting in place unprecedented lockdown measures designed to contain its impact on public health. However, such measures are having significant impacts on other domains of human activity, including food and nutrition security, jobs, livelihoods, gender equality, and potential social unrest.

The implications will be serious and particularly dire for the poor and vulnerable living in developing countries. It is estimated that the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic could plunge more than half a billion people into poverty, with communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, and the Middle East expected to suffer the most. The impacts of this global health crisis and ultimately the economic crisis will disproportionately affect women and girls and reverse progress on gender equality on many levels. Unless sound and decisive measures are taken fast to keep global food supply chains going and to protect poor and vulnerable communities, a looming food crisis – with serious socio-economic consequences – will become inevitable.

Disruptions in supply chains for fish and aquatic foods are already happening due to disruptions in transportation, trade, and labor. Falling production from reduced fishing efforts and delayed stocking of aquaculture systems will lead to lower supplies, access, and consumption of these foods. Decreased consumer demand and increased transaction costs will have a knock-on effect that will push the price of fish and aquatic foods up and make them less affordable for poor consumers. Many people employed in these supply chains, such as fish vendors, processors, suppliers or transport workers will lose their jobs.

Currently, overfishing poses by far the greatest risk to the Lake Albert aquatic ecosystem. Widespread poverty, rapidly growing populations, and the lack of viable alternative livelihood strategies drive the unsustainable exploitation of the lake’s aquatic resources. While overfishing has been critically affecting the aquatic ecosystem for over a decade, this threat has been intensifying over the past five years. According to stakeholders, breeding grounds are increasingly being targeted by local artisanal fisheries, especially following the increase in the use of illegal monofilament nets used to catch the increasingly economically valuable mukene fish.

Lake Albert is one of the largest lakes in Uganda that still supports a multi-species fishery which as a result of variable adult sizes of the species, causes management challenges especially in relation to gear mesh size enforcement. Prior to the 1980s, commercial species were 17 large-sized fishes especially Githarinus, Citharinus, Distichodus, niloticus, and Lates spp that were confined to inshore habitats of the lake and were thus rapidly overfished. Frame and catch assessment surveys conducted in this study revealed a >80% dominance of small size fish species (Neobola_bredoi and Brycinus nurse) and a 40 – 60% decrease in the contribution of the large commercial species. Sustainability of small size fish species is uncertain due to seasonal fluctuations and low beach value. At about 150,000 tons of fish recorded from Lake Albert and Albert Nile, the beach value was estimated at 55.3 million USD. Despite the noted decline in catches of the large-sized fishes, their contribution was more than 50% of total beach value. Therefore, management measures should couple value addition for the small-sized species and maintain effort regulation targeting recovery of the large previously commercial species



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