Uganda has enormous fisheries resources potential for both capture fisheries and aquaculture production. The fisheries landscape includes five large lakes of Victoria, Kyoga, Albert, Edward and George, 160 minor lakes, rivers, swamps and floodplains. Department of Fisheries Resources and stakeholders have developed fisheries policy frameworks and strategies to regulate the sub sector.

Pursuant to existing pertinent national strategies and frameworks such as the National Development Plan (NDP ) and the Agriculture Sector Development Strategy and Investment Plan (DSIP ) recognizes fisheries as one of the primary growth sub sectors and considers fish among the first 10 agriculture commodities to be promoted respectively. In addition, the second Uganda Competitiveness and Investment Strategy (CICSII ) identify fisheries as a high potential growth cluster. The fisheries cluster comprises of hundreds of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) providing services and goods at lower cost with improved flexibility.

It is the MSMEs that over the last decade, enabled the fisheries sub sector to take a strong position in the country’s economy as the second largest foreign income earner after coffee (MFPED, 2003) with the Nile Perch, Nile Tilapia and Silverfish (Mukene) forming the foundation of the fisheries. The fisheries sub-sector further employs 1 – 1.5 million people both directly and indirectly (DFR 2011) in production, processing and marketing.

The exported value of fish increased from $30 to $180 million in the period 1995-2008, mainly through export of fresh, chilled and frozen fish (CICS II, 2011). The highest value from fish exports ever realized was in 2005 when 36,614 tons of factory processed fish were exported, generated US$ 143,168 and accounting for 18 percent of total exports (DFR 2011). The main export market is the European Union and others include the Middle East, United States, Egypt and South-East Asia.

The production of existing five major and 160 minor water bodies is estimated at 460,000 metric tons (DFR 2011), though a significant percentage is illegal, unrecorded and unreported. Overall, exports to international markets have recently declined sharply, falling from a peak of 39,201 tons in 2005 to about 15,417 tons in 2010 (DFR, 2011). This is mainly attributed to declining catches, falling stocks, over-fishing and expanses of regional markets.

While capture fisheries production declines, aquaculture production keeps on expanding. Considerable efforts from government, development partners and the media, in the recent past have promoted aquaculture as a complement to the ailing capture fisheries. The Department of fisheries has constructed four regional fish fry production (hatcheries) and demonstration centers in Mbale, Gulu, Kajjansi and Bushenyi under Fisheries Development Project. This sub-sector received support under the USAID FISH and LEAD projects involving training and small grants, substantially increasing the production capacity of small and medium scale fish farmers and highlighting the need for more time and resources to build well-functioning producer groups and organizations. Therefore, aquaculture is set to remain one of the fastest-growing animal food-producing sectors.

Official estimates show production estimate of 95,000 (FAO-Fishstat, 2011 ), though there is no reliable source of aquaculture production data in Uganda. Aquaculture is practiced in land based ponds and tank systems. Recently, cage farming is arousing interest in sections of private sector because of better returns on investment. The Department of Fisheries Resources report that are there are an estimated 750 cages owned by groups or individuals in Ugandan lakes and over 5000 fishponds. European Union study in 2012 showed that there was one large commercial aquaculture enterprise and estimated 100 small and medium scale commercial operating well below their capacity (Dalsgaard, et al. 2012 ). Currently, aquaculture production is non-market oriented and smallholder-dominated, which has led to low production and productivity. Despite its existing potential, the current level of aquaculture production does not meet both local and external market demand. Therefore, there is a need for aquaculture parks to increase production.

1. In addition to the formal market channels, a recent survey (BOU, 2007) indicated that fish worth USD 33 million were exported ‘informally’, much of it illegally, to the neighbouring countries of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Kenya and Rwanda in 2006. This was 14 percent of all informally traded goods from Uganda in that year.

2. Between 1991 and 2007, the number of people depending on the sector increased from 700,000 to over 1.2 million people.

3. While catches from Lake Victoria are dwindling fast, the situation for the other lakes is even worse. Lake Kyoga catches have dropped from over 167,000 tonnes in the 1980s to less than 55,000 tonnes in 2006.

4. Eight out of the 18 fish processing factories have closed and others are threatened with closure.

5. There is inadequate facilities for seed multiplication and artificial propagation for restocking and stock enhancement.

6. There is a lack of feeds to sustain the real opportunities in aquaculture. The feed on the market are expensive and unaffordable.

7. Farmers are currently being pushed towards high cost aquaculture production systems which potentially makes fisheries industry uncompetitive.

8. Very small amounts of farmed fish are being produced, and prices are influenced by relatively low prices from of wild fish from the lakes.

Category: Sectors