ANDREA VON SARNOWSKI
Johannes Gutenberg University, Geography, Germany
With lakes, rivers and swamps covering nearly 20% of its land surface, Uganda has an important fisheries sector. Lake Albert contributes significantly to Uganda's fish production and ranks third behind Lakes Victoria and Kyoga. The population at the lakeshores lives almost exclusively from fishing and fishmongering. However, like the other large inland water bodies of East Africa Lake Albert is heavily overfished.
The few existing studies on fisheries in Uganda predominantly look at Lake Victoria and at fisheries technological and biological issues. This study however, sheds light on the socioeconomic aspects of the artisanal fisheries at Lake Albert and the determinants of the overfishing of the lake.
The results of the study show that the problem of overfishing cannot be explained with a simple causal chain, but that it is a result of a complex set of economical, socio-cultural and political factors. Firstly, factors such as widespread poverty, a lack of economic alternatives or the high cost of appropriate fishing gears lead to an overexploitation of the open access fisheries. Secondly, collective action to solve the problem is inhibited by a lack of problem awareness and the conflicts of interest between rich and poor fishermen as well as between indigenous people and migrants. Moreover, on the political level the lack of enforcement of existing fisheries laws is a problem.
In the long term, the sustainable use of the fish stocks and a sustainable basis for nutrition, employment and income are mutually dependent. In the short term, however, there will be conflict, since any measure for the recovery of the fish stocks will immediately lead to a reduction in income. It is therefore recommended that any measures for the conservation and sustainable use of the fisheries resources should be accompanied by an integrated development. Moreover the population of the fishing villages should participate in the development and the implementation of the measures in order to ensure their success.
Keywords: Fisheries, natural resource management, overfishing, rural development, tragedy of the commons, Uganda