December 2003

Location of main landing places

Natural water bodies cover some 42 000 km2, or about 18% of Uganda’s total area, and fisheries play a very important role as a foundation of subsistence and commercial livelihood. Lake Victoria is by far the largest and economically most significant of the national fisheries. However, other large lakes, including George, Edward, Albert, and Kyoga, along with the River Nile and a great variety of minor lakes around each of the large lakes (usually referred to as ‘satellite lakes’), swamps and streams, also contribute substantially to the annual national catch.

Uganda’s portion of Victoria covers about 45% (30 600 km2) of the total lake area, and currently has over 800 landing beaches and about 12 000 fishing and support canoes distributed across eleven administrative districts along the Ugandan shoreline. Major marketing points and processing facilities are concentrated in Entebbe, Kampala and Jinja, all of which are served by major roads, with nearby landing sites providing ready access to other points around the lake. Based on census work carried out in the early 1990s, major local landing sites (>50 active fishing craft) included: (a) Ggaba, Kigungu, Buvumbo, Ssanya and Kalungi (Entebbe Region); (b) Masaka Beach, Kabuka Beach, Namoni, Lwanika, Nakalanga, Namusiru, Ziro and Nsingo (Jinja Region); (c) Bulingu, Nakigga and Lambu (Masaka Region); and (d) Lufudu, Idokwe, Bugoto, Bwondha, Lubia and Masulya (Tororo Region). Below is a table indicating the location of main landing places (including the approximate quantity of fish landed. For minor lakes, landing places are not officially designated and are therefore reported on a whole-lake basis.

Annual Fish Production for Minor Lakes by District for 2001



Fish landings

Value (U Sh million)


L. Wamala

1 506



L. Nyabihoko & L. Nyakiyanza




L. Kachera, L. Nakivali & L. Mburo

3 880


Masaka (Estimate)

L. Nabugabo, Kayanja & Nanywa

6 000

2 000


L. Kijanebalola




L. Chahaffi & L. Mulehe




Over 50 lakes



11 804

2 660

Annual Fish Production and major landing sites for Lakes Edward and George by District for 2001


Major landing site

Fish landings (tonne)

Value (U Sh million)


Kisenyi on L. Edward &
Kashaka on L. George

1 445

1 429


Katwe on Edward

1 895




1 053










5 224

3 009

Annual Fish Production and major landing sites for Lake Albert by District for 2001


Major landing site

Fish landings (tonne)

Value (U Sh million)


Dei, Kayonga & Munywa

2 428



Wanseko, Kabolwa, Bugoigo & Butiaba


4 848


1 113


Kijangi & Waki

7 425

1 657


Ntoroko, Kamuga, Kamara & Songa Kiyanja


4 677


1 267



19 378

4 352

Annual Fish Production and major landing sites for Lake Kyoga by District for 2001


Major landing site

Fish landings (tonne)

Value (U Sh million)



3 069

1 685



9 841

1 513



16 773

6 361



9 735

2 695



16 172

2 722







7 079



Masindi Port

1 500








64 517

16 486

Annual Fish Production and landing sites for Lake Victoria by District for 2001


Major Landing sites

Fish landings (tonne)

Value (U Sh million)


Maduwa, Busime, Majanji & Nalyoba




Gorofa, Yebe, Wakawaka

25 842

17 715


Masese, Wanyange & Wairaka



Kalangala (estimate)

Kachanga, Kiziiba, Misonzi, Nkese, Vujja

20 000

5 000


Ggaba & Mulungu




Lambu, Ddimu, & Namirembe M.

5 179

3 348


Lwanika, Bugoto, Bwondha, Masulya, Khaaza Island

8 876

4 971


Kaggulube, Kigungu, Lwalalo & Nsonga

5 386

2 625


Kasenyi, Lubia, Kansembwe & Kibulwe

84 745

17 807


Kasensero & Sango Bay

2 195

1 646



2 629

29 879



155 965

83 903

 Dramatic changes have occurred in Lake Victoria since the mid-1980s, when the introduced predator Nile perch (Lates niloticus) began to dominate the fisheries. Reports indicate that annual Uganda landings of Nile perch have decreased from the 100 000 t-plus levels of the late 1980s and early 1990s to 80–90 000 t in 1995–97 (FAO/FISHSTAT estimates). Catches of Nile perch from the Uganda portion of the lake peaked in 1992, at a reported 130 000 t. From 1985 through 1997, the annual Nile perch catch comprised around half of total annual production in the country. The contemporary fisheries regime is much simplified in species composition from the ‘pre-perch’ days. Lakewide harvests are now based largely on Nile perch (>60%), Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) (>30%), and the endemic small pelagic cyprinid Rastrineobola argentea (locally known as dagaa or mukene) (<10%). Below is a table indicating the production by species for 2000 when considering the total fish production in Uganda (Department of Fisheries Resources, Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries).

Annual fish production by waterbody for 2001


Weight (tonne)

Value (US$ million)

Nile perch (Lates niloticus)

87 257.03

39 127.85

Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)

96 493.04

20 431.10

Mukene or dagaa (Rastrineobola argentea)

10 386.18

4 537.69

Tiger fish (Hydrocynus baremose)

7 189.40

1 793.20

Lungfish (Protopterus aethiopicus)

5 796.42

3 032.86

Bagrus spp.

4 374.81

1 759.45

Alestes spp. & barbines



African catfish (Clarias gariepinis)

2 986.76


Zilli’s tilapia (Tilapia zilli)









Others (carp, labeines, etc.)

1 794.50


Total National Production

219 427.62

72 468.03

 There has been extensive development of industrial processing for the lucrative export trade in Nile perch fillets, raw material for which is mostly supplied by artisanal gillnet and longline fishers. Twelve industrial processing plants had been established by 1997, distributed between Entebbe, Kampala, and Jinja. FAO/FISHSTAT figures for 1996/97 indicate that ca US$ 34.6 million worth of fish and fisheries products were exported, mostly Victoria Nile perch fillets. Since 2000, fish exports to EU and other premium markets have grown to over US$ 80 million annually. These exports are still over 90% Nile perch fillet. However, recently there has been a upward surge in the amount of chilled and frozen Nile tilapia fillets exported to these premium markets. Exports to regional markets are estimated by the Department of Fisheries Resources of Uganda to be in the range of US$ 35 to 40 million annually.

Lake Victoria Capture fisheries

Lake Victoria capture fishery is managed both under Ugandan law and under policies and approaches agreed upon by the three riparian states of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda under the auspices of the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO). All three countries have also signed the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and have made efforts to implement it through their respective fisheries legislation. The three countries have agreed to minimum sizes, types and kinds of gear, as well as minimum sizes and slot sizes for exploiting the respective fisheries.

Uganda seeks to maximize production from its waters for the major fisheries on Lake Victoria while ensuring effective recruitment by protecting the immature fish and brooder fish against wanton exploitation and illegal, unrecorded and unreported (IUU) fishing. Other objectives of management policy are to curb smuggling of Ugandan fish to neighbouring countries, and to prevent unlicensed alien fishing in Ugandan shared waters.

Management measures applied to Lake Victoria fisheries include:

mesh size control for the all the major fisheries;

slot size control for the Nile perch fishery;

access to the fisheries is open and throughout the year; and

no incentives from government to the fishermen, although fishermen are free to receive inputs from the fish processors as a way of ensuring fish landed is sold to a particular processor or middleman.

The demand in premium markets for fillets of small size from immature Nile perch and Nile tilapia, and export to regional markets of small sized and immature fish, have led to increased IUU fishing.

Lake Kyoga Complex

The Lake Kyoga complex opens off of the Victoria Nile, north of Lake Victoria, as an extensive network of shallow open water areas fringed by papyrus swamps. Open water varies over years and seasons, but is estimated to average around 2 700 km2, with the largest lakes consisting of Kyoga, Kwania, Nakuwwa and Bisina. Some 4 700 km2 of the complex comprises swamps and smaller lakes. The introduction of Nile tilapia and Nile perch during the mid-1950s precipitated the decline of native fish, in a manner that anticipated developments in Lake Victoria. By the late 1960s, the two introduced species comprised over 80% of the total Kyoga commercial catch. During the 1970s, Lake Kyoga hosted the most productive fishery in the country, but catches had declined dramatically by the mid-1980s, reportedly due to heavy beach seining of Nile perch. Nile tilapia continued to be harvested at a high rate for some years thereafter, and supported an extensive export traffic to Kenya, before the combined effects of civil unrest, fishing pressure and the spread of water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) severely curtailed fishing operations. The Kyoga complex in the 1990s was heavily infested with water hyacinth, but with the combined use of biological and mechanical control the weed has been reduced to negligible levels. Some 34 landing sites of all sizes were reported for Lake Kyoga, and 18 for Lake Kwania. An estimated 1 500 planked canoes were in operation at the time of the frame survey in the mid-1990s throughout the complex, operated by a population of roughly 4 500 fishers.

Lake Kyoga complex fisheries

Kyoga fisheries are mainly Nile tilapia. The Nile perch and the small pelagics (dagaa) follow this. Mesh sizes restrictions are similar to those of Lake Victoria, as well as gear slot size. It is managed on an open access model, but recently the 11 surrounding districts have been developing modalities to allot specific numbers of fishermen and unit effort to each district, to later move to quota production based on total allowable catch (TAC) assessments when data recording improves. Most fish landed from Kyoga goes for regional export to Rwanda and DRC. The fishery here, though close to that of Lake Victoria, is regulated wholly by Ugandan Fisheries legislation. The government’s objective is to ensure sustained production from the lake, and to make Lake Kyoga another source for raw material for fish processing for export to EU and other premium markets. Increased pressure from the fishing community and, until recently, uncoordinated licensing by the respective districts, led to excessive effort and consequent overfishing and increased fishing malpractices.

Lake George and Lake Edward

These two water bodies are situated in the extreme west of the country, and are joined by the Kazinga Channel (25 km) flowing west from Lake George (250 km2) into Lake Edward (2 300 km2). Edward is shared with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (Uganda, 670 km2 (29%); DRC, 1 630 km2 (71%)) and drains into the Semliki River, which flows northwards through DRC to discharge into Lake Albert. All of the Ugandan shoreline of Edward, and most of the Kazinga Channel and Lake George, lie within the boundaries of Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park. Fisheries activities are therefore subject to additional regulation imposed by the park and wildlife authorities, such as prohibitions on fuelwood collection in specified areas and general restrictions on settlement and infrastructure development. Both lakes have provided important fisheries in the past, with harvests composed primarily of tilapia, catfishes (Bagrus and Clarias species), and lungfish.  Available catch statistics for Lake George over a forty-year period up to 1990 indicate an average catch of around 3 000 t/year; for Lake Edward, returns covering a twenty-five-year period ending in 1988 indicate an average catch of around 5 500 t/year. Unlike Lakes Victoria and Kyoga, which have open-ended licensing, effort on Lakes George and Edward is controlled, with a specified number of canoes with a known number of nets annually.  Enforcement of these limitations and quotas is strict, and a body has been formed among the surrounding districts to ensure that districts and fishermen adhere to the set quotas. Based on aerial census and field research work carried out in the late 1980s and early 1990s, an estimated 1 500 fishers and 495 canoes were on Lake George, concentrated at the fishing villages of Kahendero, Hamukungu, Kasenio, Kashaka, Mahyoro and Kayinja. Kazinga Channel has two landing sites, one at either end of the Katunguru Bridge. About 50 canoes and 100 fishers operate out of these sites. On Lake Edward, major landing sites within the Ugandan sector include Kayanja, Katwe, Kazinga, Kishenyi and Rwenshama. Together, they host a fleet of some 360 small fishing craft and about 1 100 fishers.

Lakes Edward and George fishery

This is a diverse fishery, but primarily of Nile tilapia, Bagride catfish (Bagrus docmac), lungfish and African catfish. Due to excessive effort, Districts around these two lakes have a closed access system limiting the number of fishers and annual effort. In addition, each district is given and limited to a specific quota of effort. These quotas of allocated effort at individual level are transferable between fishermen with clearance from the district leadership. Efforts are also being made to move to TAC quotas as data collection improves and agreement reached among the respective districts. The lake’s mesh size restriction differ from those of Kyoga and Victoria. Fishing is open all year, with the exception of closed areas in the National Park, since the two lakes lie partly there. The goal of management efforts here is to create equitable exploitation of the resources and reduce effort to a level that sustains the resource.

Lake Albert

Shared between Uganda (54%) and the DRC (46%), the broad waters of Albert (5 270 km2) are fed by the Semliki River from the south and the River Nile, which loops in and out of the northern tip of the lake. As with the other great lakes of the Western Rift Valley, Lake Albert contains a great variety of fish. However, the commercial catch is largely Alestes baremose, Hydrocynus forskahli, Nile perch, tilapia and Bagrus spp. The statistical record indicates that annual catches over a thirty-year period (1955–86) fluctuated between lows of around 4 000 t to highs of over 20 000 t. The accuracy of this record is open to question, however, as a good deal of the Albert trade in fresh and processed fish products historically has been carried out through marketing points in the DRC. Major landing sites along the Ugandan shoreline include Ntoroko, Butiaba, Bugoigo and Wanseko. An estimated 8 800 fishers with a fleet of around 2 500 small craft operate within Ugandan waters.

Lake Albert fishery

In Lake Albert, several species are exploited, primarily Nile perch, Nile tilapia, Tiger fish, Alestes baremose and Barbines. Lake Albert is shared between Uganda and DRC, but there is no arrangement to manage the fisheries on a regional basis. However, under the Nile Basin Initiative, effort is being made to seek a regional approach to the exploitation and development of the fishery. On the Ugandan side, the fisheries in the lake are managed using mesh size restrictions. This is possible because the various species exploit different niches in the lake and thus are caught by fishermen at different places and times. The goal here is to allow for sustained exploitation of the various fisheries without hurting or damaging any one of them. In addition, the government is seeking to establish Lake Albert as source of fish for processing for export to EU and other premium markets.  The results have been mixed, in that fishermen have continued to enjoy the laxity of exploiting the different fisheries at the same time, however, this has inadvertently hurt some of fisheries. And with the move to make Albert a source of fish for EU and other premium markets, targeting only Nile tilapia and Nile perch, there is deliberate move to restrict gear that hurt the two fisheries. This move will certainly deny the fishermen open access to the other fisheries in the lake.

Other lakes and rivers

There are scores of other lakes, rivers, and swamps throughout Uganda that host subsistence and commercial fisheries in addition to those listed above. The most significant of these are summarized below.

Water body


S.W. Kigezi lakes and rivers

Southwestern Uganda, bordering Rwanda and DRC; includes Lakes Bunyoni, Mutanda and Mulehe, along with Ruhuma and Muchoya papyrus swamps.

Ankole and Koki lakes and papyrus swamp complex.

Discharges via the Kibali and Kagera Rivers into Lake Victoria; major lakes include Kijanebalola, Kachira, Mburo and Nakivali.

L. Nabugabo

Fringe lake to Lake Victoria.

L. Nyamusingire

Western crater lake in Kichwamba area, Bushenyi District Western Uganda

Lake Wamala

244 km2; ca 2 000t/year yield in early 1980s; history of overfishing.


Water course


Kagera River

No fisheries data available; reported conduit of water hyacinth infestation into Lake Victoria.

Kazinga Channel

See notes for Lakes Edward and George (above).

Turkwel River

Flows from Mount Elgon in the east; sport fishery in upper reaches; current status unknown.

River Nile

Flows out of Lake Victoria at Owens Falls Dam (Victoria Nile) and through the northern tip of Lake Albert, north to Sudan (Albert Nile); extensive local fisheries along most of its length.

The minor lakes fisheries

The fisheries in the minor lakes are quite extensive and dispersed, though records in most cases lump them together. Various fish species are found, but the key fisheries are those based on Nile tilapia, Haplochromines, African catfish and lungfish. Management of these fisheries has largely been left to the riparian districts and communities, except for some productive ones or those in National Parks. This approach over time has been detrimental to fish production from these water bodies and nearly all have had to be restocked to revitalize the fisheries. At the same time, these fisheries have been a source of fish protein for innumerable riparian communities. Some communities have imposed their own management systems to ensure continuity of the fisheries in those waters. Recently, the government has adopted a strategy to restock all these minor lakes so as to increase access of such communities to fish protein, and as well as to reinvigorate fish production for commercial purposes.

Fluvial fisheries

Uganda is endowed with a vast network of rivers and streams, but the fisheries from them are over­shadowed by the production in the Lakes. People exploit fluvial fisheries, but no records are available. The fisheries are diverse and some are seasonal, being trapped or captured during the upstream migration for spawning. An important fishery producing up to 250 t/year was that of Labeo victorianus (locally known as ningu), which was found in the streams adjacent to Lakes Victoria and Kyoga. This species is currently considered as endangered and is only occasionally caught. However, key species in the fluvial fisheries include Nile tilapia, Alestes spp., Nile perch, barbs, catfishes and lungfish. A lack of focus by the respective government agencies, whether at local or central level, has led to contraction in fluvial fisheries, despite their great potential for fish production if well managed. Among the important rivers are River Nile, River Kafu, River Katonga, Kazinga Channel and Aswa River.

Fisheries management

Overall strategy

Government policy for the fisheries sector has been reviewed and is now is currently being considered at Cabinet level. The draft document recognizes the need for sectoral development to proceed according to principles of ‘rational exploitation’ and ‘sustainability,’ and to achieve a balance of benefits between domestic food and employment provision requirements, and generation of foreign exchange through export sales.  The policy paperalso proposes an administrative shift, from a Ministerial Department to a completely autonomous fisheries management body, to be known as Uganda Fisheries Authority.

The principal legislation and management measures are the basic fisheries legislation set out in the Fish and Crocodiles Act (Cap. 228, Rev. 1964), and the Trout Protection Act (Cap. 229, Rev. 1964). These are currently under review. The Fish and Crocodiles Act (known as the Fish Act, 1964) empowers the Chief Fisheries Officer (Commissioner for Fisheries), acting for the Minister, to gazette Statutory Instruments to facilitate purposes of the Act. ‘Administrative Orders’ are also authorized. Such orders are issued on an ad hoc basis to promote or control the activities of fishers and traders. They do not however carry the force of law – i.e. they are not actionable in court.

The two basic fisheries Acts and their derivative rules and statutory instruments relate, inter alia, to matters of:

(a) Registration of fishing vessels (obligation of registration of fishing vessels and definitions of governing conditions).

(b) Licensing provisions, including

– Local fishing vessel requirements; and

– other licences (requirements for any other fisheries activity, including sport fishing).

(c) Offences and enforcement.

– Prohibited methods of fishing.

– Trade and commerce in fish illegally caught.

– Obstruction of officers.

– Powers of officers.

– Procedure of forfeiture.

Summary of main fisheries regulations

Relevant fisheries acts, related legislation, and fisheries statutory instruments, include the following:

Fish Act (Cap. 228, Rev. 1964). Basic legislation.

The Trout Protection Act (Cap. 229, Rev. 1964). Basic legislation.

The Fishing Rules (No. 8, 1964).

The Fish and Crocodiles (Amendment) Act (1967).

Statutory Instrument No. 15 of 1981.

The National Environment Statute, 1995.

The Water Statute, 1995.

The Uganda Wildlife Stature, 1996.

The Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, 1998.

The Water Resources Regulations, 1998.

The Fish (Beach Management) Rules, 2003.

The Fish (Aquaculture) Rules, 2003.

Efforts began in the early 1990s to revise and update the Fish and Crocodiles Act, including the preparation of a Statutory Instrument prohibiting the use of beach seines. Various proposals for amendments to existing legislation reportedly under consideration also included measures for: stricter control of access (licensing of individual operators and gear in addition to vessels); establishing restricted fishing areas, closed areas and seasons; authorized landing sites; gear capacity restrictions; minimum size regulations for target species; relating industrial processing plant capacity to sustainable levels; and enhancing the ability of fisheries officials to collect statistical information.

Management status of major fisheries

It appears doubtful that Uganda’s capture fisheries can support much further development of productive capacity, as, with few exceptions, resources have been at a state of full exploitation for some years. Existing management measures have not proven wholly adequate as tools of regulation and conservation. As noted above, national fisheries authorities have recently been engaged in an extensive review and updating of management tools. Most attention has focused on Lake Victoria, the country’s mainstay fishery. Under existing legislation, the Victoria fishery is basically one of open access. There are relatively few restrictions on who may fish, and few technical measures to control fishing mortality. A minimum gillnet mesh size requirement of 127 mm was formerly imposed, but was repealed in the mid-1950s in the face of widespread opposition and noncompliance by local fishers. At the present time, so far as is known, the only legally prohibited gear for Victoria are gillnets with a stretched length of more than 100 yards and a depth of greater than 30 meshes.

Existing legislation applying to all national waters further prohibits various fishing techniques, including the use of artificial light (lamp, flare, torch, etc.) or any poison, noxious substance, explosive or electrical device. A further restriction specific to Lake Victoria, entered into force through Statutory Instrument No. 15 of 1981, establishes the minimum size for Nile perch as 440 mm, and for Nile tilapia as 280 mm.

On Lakes George and Edward and the Kazinga Channel, gazetted landings have been established as a means of controlling the number of canoes and the disposal of fish. There are no such officially authorized landings for Lake Victoria. The Fishing Rules do however require that all fish landings for all national waters take place only between the hours of sunrise and sunset, in order to facilitate the collection of statistical data.

Whilst it has been reported that bans have been placed on the use of beach seines and trawlers (except for experimental purposes) on Lake Victoria, the exact legal force of such prohibition is not clear from information available. (If a gear or activity is prohibited by ‘Administrative Order’ rather than through a Statutory Instrument, violations of the prohibition are not actionable in court.)

In general, whatever their legal status, the tools that have been deployed for the regulation of the Victoria fisheries of Uganda have not met with high levels of compliance. The lake’s fisheries face serious problems that require urgent attention. Rapid expansion of the Nile perch population and the fishery it supports have led to many expressions of alarm about the future of the lacustrine ecosystem and the sustainability of the resource. Of particular note is the impressive growth from the early 1990s of industrial processing for the lucrative export trade, raw material for which is mostly supplied by artisanal gillnet and longline fishers.

Continued heavy exploitation of Nile perch raises social equity and food security as well as sustainability concerns. Fishing pressure affects juvenile as well as adult stock components in a situation that is already unstable and in need of a strong precautionary approach. Poorer, less well-equipped operators stand to be marginalized or displaced from the fishery. Consumer prices for table fish tend to spiral upward, and at the same time local markets are increasingly supplied with the smaller or poorer quality fish that are not suitable for industrial processing.

Moreover, there were reports that unscrupulous parties used poisons to kill fish, which were subsequently sent to market. This greatly alarmed fisheries and health officials, and led to severe disruption of established domestic, and particularly overseas, marketing activities in the late 1990s.

Expansion of the mukene fishery and recent development of a new fishery for the freshwater shrimp C. niloticus are further areas for concern. Nile perch feed heavily on both of these species. C. niloticus is utilized for the production of animal feed, as is dried mukene, which is also a very important source of food for the wider national population.

Other major environmental anomalies, in addition to species introductions and their ramifications, are also arousing concern for the future of the Lake Victoria ecosystem. Researchers have documented changes in water quality, marked by increasing eutrophication and the development of an anoxic layer at lower levels of the water column. In addition, the exotic aquatic weed water hyacinth began to appear in the lake during 1989–90, reportedly spreading from the Kagera River (the main tributary of Lake Victoria, flowing from the Burundi-Rwanda highlands). From 1990, its colonization of Lake Victoria was ubiquitous, and its mats often choked sheltered bays and inlets. The problem was particularly severe along the northern and eastern shorelines and islands (Uganda and Kenya).

A new regional management body, the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO), was established through a Convention signed by the three lacustrine states in June 1994. LVFO serves as a successor body to the CIFA Sub-Committee for Lake Victoria, and is charged with broad responsibilities for fostering effective cooperation between the Contracting Parties in order to develop and adopt a common approach to the conservation and management of the Lake’s living resources to ensure ecosystem health and sustainability. LVFO’s headquarters are at Jinja, Uganda. (An LVFO Web site has been established at

Institutional arrangements as they relate to the legal basis for Fisheries management

Lead agency and inter-sectoral linkages

Currently, fisheries management is still vested in the central government ministry responsible for fisheries (Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries). The competent authority under this agency is the Department of Fisheries Resources, headed by the Commissioner for Fisheries. However, following decentralization, local governments and resource users are more directly responsible for the resources in their administrative areas, and only contact the centre for consultation, especially regarding legal exploitation and development of the fisheries.  National Policy and Planning, and regulation and law enforcement remain the remit of the central government – the Department of Fisheries Resources. In executing these roles, the central government can delegate the powers to authorized officers in the districts or to representatives of any government agency, especially the security agencies. The Fish Act of 1964 entrusts the power of regulation and enforcement in the civil head of the department responsible for fisheries, currently the Commissioner for Fisheries, heading the Department of Fisheries Resources.

Current fisheries management roles and mandates in Uganda

The Department of Fisheries Resources

This falls under the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, and is mandated to promote, guide and support the sector, but it also retains responsibility for setting and enforcing standards and regulations for practices pertaining to fisheries. Areas of activity include:

(i)  Promotion

– create awareness of sector value and potential;

– create awareness of sector needs and vulnerability;

– encourage investment by the private sector and by local government;

– promote product development and export in collaboration with the private sector; and

– promote best practice (Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, CCRF) and a precautionary approach in exploitation of the resources.

(ii) Support

– provide technical back up for local government staff;

– acquire, process and provide information for all stakeholders;

– build capacity at local government level;

– monitor local governments and communities;

– create funding strategies for sector development;

– ensure sustainable use through good policy and good law; and

– develop new options for production and livelihood improvement

(iii) Guidance

– advise on implementation of policy and law;

– advise adaptation of law and policy at local level;

– advise development needs and options;

– advise on private sector investment;

– advise on mechanisms for co-management; and

– advise on management and policing of shared resources.

(iv) Regulation

– establish an appropriate and equitable legal basis for sustainable management;

– maintain monitoring, control and surveillance of fisheries oversight as part of recurrent operational support to enforce fisheries legislation;

– ensure implementation of national law and international agreements on shared large water bodies, using direct action when required;

– support and monitor evolution of the appropriate compliant laws at district and community levels; and

– enforce and monitor national standards of post-harvest quality and practice.

Local government

The District acts as the primary link to the centre. Policies, laws and finances are cascaded down to the sub-counties and lower administrative levels. In reality the sub-county has become the focal point of development assistance aimed at reducing poverty through improved governance. It is at this level that the day-to-day hands-on interaction with fisheries communities and their institutions occurs.  The roles of local governments include:

Planning for fishery community development and poverty reduction.

Seeking funding for fishery-community-led development projects.

Ensuring compliance with national laws and policies on water bodies.

Adapting national laws and policies to local needs.

Establishing forums for effective management of resources shared by more than one district.

Promoting co-management and responsibility sharing.

Supporting the regulation of major international water bodies in partnership with central authorities where appropriate.

Building capacity and providing support and guidance to fisheries communities in livelihood enhancement strategies.

Representing the views of communities at national level through the central fisheries body and through the ministry responsible for co-ordination of local government.

Collecting the revenues necessary to ensure sustainable local government, and to re-invest in fisheries development.

Enacting appropriate ordinances and by-laws for the management of fisheries resources.

Fisheries communities

Communities, under the decentralization policy, are expected to take a leading role in husbanding their resources, especially in near-shore waters. It is recognized that, with reduced central capacity and a supporting (rather than implementing) role, local governments alone will not be able to ensure sustainable use of resources and the improvement of fisheries livelihoods. Central government can be expected to take direct responsibility for dealing with major issues, while communities are expected to support local governments in the day-to-day safeguarding of their natural assets and livelihood strategies.  The role of communities includes:

Supporting local government in the implementation of national laws and policies.

Supporting and collaborating with local governments in adaptation of laws and policies to meet local needs.

Ensuring compliance with local and national fisheries regulations.

Contributing to the revenue required by local government to fuel development and administration.

Supporting local government in establishing mechanisms for management of shared resources.

Identifying community fisheries priorities and planning for improvement.

Articulating issues and priorities and advocating the needs of the sector.

Collecting data on fishing effort and catches.

Formulating and enforcing community by-laws at the local level.

Monitoring fishing activities within their area.

The roles of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs)

Mobilizing and sensitizing local people for active participation in managing fisheries activities.

Supplementing the efforts of the public sector and advisory services or extension.

Training and skills development among the fishing communities and their organizations.

Acting as intermediaries or conduits, or both, for financial support.

Collecting and analysing independent data on fisheries socio-economics for advising government.

Advocacy to ensure that the concerns of the underprivileged are incorporated in the national development processes.

The private sector

The private sector is regarded as the engine for growth in fisheries development. All production activities for profit-making, according to government policy, have been left to the private sector. Such roles include management of landing sites, ownership and operation of production units, fish trade, and commercial and intensive fish farming.

Education, training and research institutions

Training in fisheries management and resource exploitation is under the Ministry of Education. Key institutions include the Fisheries Training Institute and the Zoology Department of Makerere University.  Research is open to any interested party or as may be commissioned by the interested party, but fisheries research in the public interest is vested in the government’s Fisheries Resources Research Institute (FIRRI).

Aquaculture management

The status of aquaculture management is currently in a state of transition. The culture sector has been severely hampered in the past due to problems of inadequate budgetary provision and administration within the Department of Fisheries, and consequent weak training and support for extension service providers. Limited production of seed fry for distribution to small-scale farmers and poor pond management practices have been identified as major constraints in the past. The Fisheries Research Institute/National Agriculture Research Organization (FIRI/NARO) took over the Aquaculture Research Station in the early 1990s and has been conducting research on stocking rates, fish feeds, and fish pathology. The station continues to provide fish fry to private farmers. Statistics for recent years suggest that production levels have begun to improve. Between 1990 and 1997 the annual national aquaculture harvest grew from around 50 t to over 200 t.  Political interest and will, supply of free seed to low-income farmers, and increased technical training and guidance have resulted in re-invigoration of the sector. Currently, it is estimate that there are some 20 000 ponds. The average pond size has tripled from 200 m2 to 600 m2, with a number of emerging commercial farmers having numerous ponds of about 3 000 m2 each. Production from these systems has been estimated by the Department of Fisheries Resources at about 2 200 t/year.

Investment in fisheries

Recent breakdowns of the Uganda national fleet, gear in use and support infrastructure are not available. Pending more recent information, the following estimates are provided, based on mid-1990s assumptions of national fishing unit and processing plant distribution. There were some 14 000 small craft deployed in the national fisheries, mostly on Lake Victoria. Most (95%) of these were artisanal fishing units (craft, equipment, gear and crew). Using indicative capital investment values of US$ 3 000 for standard artisanal units (planked canoes with gillnets, longlines, or dagaa (mukene) seining equipment), and US$ 4 000 for the motorized artisanal units (ca 15% of the fleet), private investment in the Ugandan fishery harvest sector stands at around US$ 35.7 million. Investment in industrial processing plants and equipment, however, has risen from US$ 12 million in the mid-1990s to US$ 40 million, bringing the private capital investment volume for the entire fisheries sector to something of the order of US$ 75 million.

Information on other parameters of investment in the Uganda fisheries sector, whether private or public, such as landing site support facilities and transportation infrastructure, government administrative and research offices, etc., is not available.

Organizational structure of the National Fisheries Authority

Responsibility for fisheries management and development is vested with the Department of Fisheries (DOF), under the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries. DOF Headquarters are in Entebbe, where the Commissioner for Fisheries oversees departmental administration and policy implementation. The Commissioner is assisted by two Assistant Commissioners, also posted at Entebbe, who coordinate departmental activities through a cadre of Principal Fisheries Officers. Each of the Principal Fisheries Officers heads a unit with Senior Fisheries Officers, Regional Fisheries Officers and Assistant Fisheries Development Officers, stationed variously at Entebbe Headquarters and at field offices. Fisheries staff are responsible for monitoring of fishing activities, law enforcement, collection of statistics, rehabilitation of fisheries resources, and extension work. Extension is primarily carried out by Fisheries Assistants, who work at the local landing site level, However, with the new law on National Advisory Services, it is expected that private-sector service providers will become responsible for extension in future. Fisheries Assistants will be retained at landing sites only for enforcement purposes. Aquaculture advisory services are to be handled by private service providers, while the District Fisheries Officers will be responsible for aquaculture inspection, and the monitoring, evaluation and regulation of private service providers and fish farmers. The basic structure of administration according to available information is outlined in the figure below. National fisheries research functions are vested in the Fisheries Research Institute (FIRI), formerly the Uganda Freshwater Fisheries Research Organization (UFFRO), with headquarters at Jinja.

Organizational structure of fisheries authorities at national level (organigram)

Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries


Minister of State for Fisheries


Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture, Animal industry and Fisheries


Commissioner for Fisheries Resources


Assistant Commissioner for Fisheries
 – Head, Fisheries Production Division


Assistant Commissioner for Fisheries – Head, Regulation and Control Division

Principal Fisheries Officer – Aquaculture Unit

Senior Aquaculture Inspector – Commercial Aquaculture

Senior Aquaculture Inspector – Small-Scale Aquaculture

Senior Aquaculture Inspector – Aquaculture Management Information System

Senior Aquaculture Inspector – Culture-based fisheries

Principal Fisheries Officer Water Bodies Unit

Senior Fisheries Engineer – Aquatic weeds

Senior Fisheries Officer – Aquatic weeds

Senior Fisheries Officer – Co-management & Fishing Communities

Senior Fisheries Officer – Micro-projects

Senior Fisheries Officer – Fisheries Production

Principal Fisheries Officer – Statistics Unit

No permanent staff under the Principal Officer.

Principal Fisheries Inspector – MCS and Enforcement Unit2

Senior Fisheries Officer (Headquarters)

3 Senior Fisheries Officer (Assigned to regional offices and major water bodies)

1 Gear Technician

Principal Fisheries Inspector – Quality Control Unit

Senior Fisheries Inspector – Processing establishment

Senior Fisheries Inspector – Certification of exports

Senior Fisheries Inspector – Sampling and analysis of fish, water & sediments

Senior Fisheries Inspector – Landing sites

Senior Fisheries Inspector – Management Information System

Under which there are:   

5 Fisheries Inspectors

3 Laboratory technicians

main institutions responsible for fisheries management and major stakeholders active in fisheries:

Government institutions

Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (Ministry responsible for fisheries)

Department of Fisheries Resources (Competent authority and agency for fisheries development and management)

Local government authorities (Authority for management at District level has been devolved by Commissioner for Fisheries to District Fisheries Offices, who are also responsible for fisheries extension)

Security agencies (Police, Intelligence and Army) (Fisheries regulation enforcement in collaboration with the Department)

Judiciary (Upholding the Fish Act and its interpretation against any offences committed under this law and other related laws regarding fisheries exploitation, conservation, development and management)

Fisheries Resources Research Institute (FIRRI) (Generation of information and technologies for fisheries development and management)

Ministry of Education

Fisheries Training Institute (FTI) (Responsible for training of gear technicians, boat builders, fish guards and any middle-level fisheries-related workers and managers)

Zoology Department, Makerere University (Responsible for training of fisheries managers and technicians)

Inter-governmental organizations

Committee for Inland Fisheries (Joint planning and advice on fisheries development and management)

East African Community (Initiation of joint developmental efforts and concerns and conflict resolution)

Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO) (Harmonization of legislation, policies, regulations and management approaches in the three East African countries; acting as a body for conflict resolution; and joint management action for the three riparian states in the area of Lake Victoria development)

Non-governmental organizations

Uganda Fish and Fisheries Conservation Association

Uganda Fisheries Allied Workers Union

Private-sector commercial agencies

Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association

Fisherfolk area-based organizations

Regional fish traders

Fish buyers and transporters – supplying fish to processors and exporters

Uganda Commercial Fish Farmers Association

Fish farmer groups and individuals at community level