UGANDA – At least four fish processing factories in Uganda have resumed operations on the back of improved fish stocks across the country.

According to the Uganda Fish Producers and Exporters Association (UFPEA), the factories, including Ngege, Marine and Agro, Gomba, and Iftra had closed about five years ago due to dwindling stocks and the poor performance of the sector.

The four factories are expected to add some 330,000 tonnes of fish and fish products to the local market and boost exports which have declined over the years, reports The East African.

This follows government’s move to implement stringent measures that sought to control fishing including imposing a ban on harvesting immature fish.

In 2011, about 10 fish factories closed as the country faced supply shortages due to unregulated fishing which called for the government’s interventions through such measures as deployment of the fisheries Protection Force in fishing grounds.

The Uganda Fish Producers and Exporters Association says that falling stocks saw the fish industry in 2008 reduce from 20 to five processing companies but the number has since recovered to about 12 factories.

This had subsequently affected export volumes and earnings- Uganda exports Nile Perch to the European Union, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

In 2017, Uganda exported 14,248 tonnes of fish valued at US$136 million, but a year later, after implementing the stringent measures, data from the Bank of Uganda shows that fish exports for the year ended 2018 improved to US$215 million.

According to the data between January and April, Uganda earned US$64.8 million from fish exports peaking at US$18.8m (Shs69.7b) in March.

According to Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, fish volume exports increased by 27 per cent in 2018 due to interventions by the government that sought to curb illegal fishing methods.

Additionally, the commissioner of fisheries Joyce Ekwakut Nyeko, said the ban on harvesting immature fish had significantly helped to replenish the fish stocks.

The country is also coming up with the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill that will embed new fisheries enforcements into law which will help to direct all illegal earnings to the national Treasury.

Uganda’s unregulated fish catch is estimated at US$430 million annually.