Issues surrounding Cage Fishing in Uganda

Fish Cage on Lake Albert Source: Department of Fisheries Annual Report, 2011
Fish Farming has been practiced since the 1950’s but it has never gone beyond small subsistence level. China in partnership with the National Fisheries Resources and Research Institute (NaFIRRI) in 2012 started a pilot project of cage fish farming in Uganda, It was ascertained that it supports over 4.2 million farmers, and yielding around $116 million a year through fish exports. There is room for expansion to other water bodies like Lake Kyoga in Uganda, supported by another pilot study done by NaFIRRI the technology is environmentally safe. Commercial Fish Farming in Uganda has a high potential due to vast fresh water bodies and rivers if tapped.  Unfortunately fish farming has not been promoted, 40% of the global fish is farmed, where Africa contributes less than 3% which is contributed by Egypt, growing more fish than the fish caught in Uganda. A former deputy Prime Minister Kirunda Kivejinja said that Lake Victoria commercial potential has not been tapped, through cage fish farming livelihoods will be promoted and more revenue generated for the government.  


There has been protests by fisher folks on the allocation of some parts of Lake Victoria, which is a public good to private investors leaving them to scramble for the remaining amidst food insecurity in the country.  Government’s demarcation of some parts of the lake making them inaccessible to fisher folks, is violation of their right to a national public good (The New Vision, May 30, 2014). 


As result fisher folks have resorted to fish poisoning this lead to a fish ban imposed by European Union (EU). A decision that lead to cost of over $30million worth of fish exports in March 1999. Although poisoning in some places is a traditional practice where poison are vegetable in nature, fish scarcity has led to the use pesticides or cyanide.  Lack of fishing grounds (portion of lakes leased to investors) and fish scarcity due to over fishing, cheap cyanide got from gold mines are used indiscriminately to kill young and old fish. These chemicals also kill other organisms in the lake ecosystem.

Child labour

There are over 1.5 million fisher folks, about 750,000 children below 18 years. In a recent research done in Mukono and Wakiso, the sector consists of processing, selling and fishing, where boys are closer to fishing while girls are to the selling.  These children are subjected to long working hours through nights, drowning, attacks from wild animals (hippopotamuses) and contraction of diseases like HIV/AIDS, this work in most cases is forced labour.

Kerosene lamp

Scarcity of fish and fishing grounds has increased night fishing, where small fish like “Mukene” is caught following zooplankton which is attracted to the light produced by kerosene lanterns. These lanterns may consume about 3 liters are night which expensive for the fisher folks, and they are associated with carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere. These kerosene lanterns do lick in the water and empty kerosene containers are just thrown away.


Open cages are used to confine fish in one area placed in water bodies, where wastes, chemicals, parasites, and disease are released directly into the water. Natural predators are attracted to the cages where they are affected. Farming of Nile perch which requires a high percentage of protein got from other fish is expensive, it requires more fish to raise Nile perch than the Nile perch produced. 

By Kateregga Dennis, BA(ECON), Dip. IEL 


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