EAC Deputy Secretary General Jessica Eriyo told TheEastAfrican that the Secretariat is developing a programme that will encourage farmers in the region to embrace fish farming.
“We have brought together experts on aquaculture across the region and development partners including Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency to look at the opportunities, challenges and come up with some measures to address those challenges,” Ms Eriyo said.
Aquaculture, which involves cultivating fresh water and saltwater populations of fish under controlled conditions is one of the world’s fastest growing sources of animal protein, projected to rise 33 per cent by 2020, to reach 79 million tonnes, says the Food and Agricultural Organisation report 2012 on the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture.
The EAC exports most of its fish to Italy, Lebanon, Jordan, Belgium, Netherlands, UAE, Spain, Greece, and France. Other buyers include Turkey, China, Australia, Hong Kong, Egypt, and the US.
Oliva Mkumbo, the programme’s focal person at the Jinja–based Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LVFO) said that whereas the Lake Victoria fisheries are showing signs of recovery, a lot is still needed to curb illegal fishing, especially of Nile perch, as well as promote aquaculture in the region.
“There are signs of recovery but they are not that significant,” Dr Mkumbo said, adding that not only is illegal fishing hampering the growth of the region’s fishing sector but also the use of illegal fishing gear.
LVFO data shows Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania registered a 17 per cent growth in fish export earnings in 2012, citing strict measures to curb illegal fishing and high prices on the international market.
The region exported 74,540 tonnes last year worth $340.7 million, compared with 56,040 tonnes worth $291 million in 2011.
FAO projects fish production to reach 161.2 million tonnes by the close of 2013, showing a 2.9 per cent growth compared with 2012.