The absence of the Fish Fund is hurting the fishing sector
Fisheries resources are among the most significant produces in Uganda not only inform of livelihood but also as they provide employment opportunities to more than 1 million people directly and about 3 million people indirectly. Under the Agriculture Sector Development Strategy and Investment Plan (DSIP) fish is considered among the first 10 agriculture commodities to be promoted for export.
The fishing activities in Uganda are monitored and controlled by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Industry under the Department of Fisheries Resources which is not only responsible for carrying out the promotion, support and guidance of the sector, but also to retain responsibility for setting and enforcing the standards and regulations for practices pertaining to fisheries.
The Department’s work is also supplemented by the Districts Local Governments and the Beach Management Units which act as community institutions with a co-management function to developing, conserving and sustaining the fisheries resources.
Fish production is carried out in two different ways; wild fishing and aquaculture. These modes of production have been faced with a number of challenges which includes but not limited to; increasing encroachment, over fishing or over-exploitation; the banning of the exportation of fish originating from Uganda to Europe by the European Union between 1997 – 2000 due to the poor quality of processed fish that was being exported to the international market; low public investment in the sector among others.
Despite the limited funding, the sector has struggled to register enormous achievements. For instance, in FY 2014/15, 19,020 tons of fish was produced fetching the country USD 178.79 m reflecting a growth of 12.72 tons and US$ 22.42 m from the 16,874 tons that were produced in FY 2013/14 and fetched only US$ 146.05 m thereby putting the sector’s contribution to about 2.5% and 12.6% of the national GDP and agricultural GDP respectively.
In the next FY 2016/17, the budget estimates as per the report of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture on the National Budget Framework Paper FY 2016/17-2020/21, indicate that the need to promote aquaculture through establishment of aquaculture parks and control of the new breed of water weed (Kariba weed) amounting to Ugx 15.635 bn and Ugx 4 bn remain unfunded priorities in the sector’s budget. This is a reflection that the status quo may remain unchallenged unless the funds are provided.
While making a ministerial statement on 6th September 2012, in response to the Question on the establishment of the Fisheries Fund by Badda Fred, Member of Parliament for Bujumba County, Hon Ruth Nankabirwa, Minister of State for Agriculture, Animal Industry & Fisheries informed the House that the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs guided the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries on the establishment of the fund that it is the responsibility of the Minister of Finance to issue a statutory instrument for the establishment of the fund which it failed to do.
She added that although aquaculture has the potential to increase fish production in the country, it requires government intervention to support production of quality fish, feeds and equipment. It is noteworthy, that although the Ministry of Agriculture and Parliament amended the Fish Act, Cap.197, to provide for ploughing back of funds received from fisheries licensing activities to be used in fisheries management and development, still the resources are minimal hence being unable to spur increased production.
The failure by Ministry of Finance to establish the Fish Fund contravenes the constitutional provisions. First and foremost, the fund is provided for under Article 153(2) of the Constitution; The revenues or other monies referred to in clause (1) of this article shall not include revenues or other monies; (a) that are payable by or under an Act of Parliament, into some other fund established for a specific purpose; or (b) that may, under an Act of Parliament, be retained by the department of Government that received them for the purposes of defraying the expenses of that department.
And Section 22(a) of the Fish Act; any fees received by the Chief Fisheries Officer or un-authorised licensing officer from the issue of licences and permits and other fisheries activities under this Act shall be retained by the Department of Fisheries Resources in a Fund established for the purpose, in accordance with the Public finance and Accountability Act, 2003 for purposes of defraying the expenses of that department and for the effective development and management of the fisheries sector.
If established the fund is expected to fill the following financial gaps in the sector; support of aquaculture development in the country; support fisheries licensing; supplement fisheries’ licensing enforcement activities; and promote the sub-sector in doing research.
The fisheries sub-sector has grown to become one of the main sources of non-traditional exports for the country. It also provides an important source of livelihood and employment for more than three million people in the country hence the need for increased public investment in the sector.