Uganda has acquired a new research vessel dedicated to studying fisheries resources on Lake Albert in western Uganda.
The move was hailed by the Acting Director of Fisheries Joyce Nyeko Ikwaput as a landmark achievement that will deepen the understanding of fisheries resources on the lake.
This newspaper understands that the vessel is undergoing final tests at Mwenza where it was built before it is handed over to Ugandan authorities.
In an exclusive interview with The Sunrise Nyeko said the vessel will also go a long way in supporting cooperation in the management of fisheries resources between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is shared by the two countries.
A regional body is born
The work of the research vessel is expected to be facilitated by the establishment of a research station as well as a permanent organization that will oversee the harmonization of fisheries and conservation activities on the shared lakes Albert and Edward.
The agreement for the establishment of the Permanent Trans-Boundary Lakes Albert and Edward Basin Organization was signed by the two governments. It’s set to be headquartered in Entebbe with DRC expected to provide the first Executive Director. Uganda will identify the office space for the bi-lateral body whose activities are expected to improve ties particularly in the hitherto disputed areas of fishing on both lakes.
Commenting about the research vessel, Ms. Nyeko said: “When the research vessel starts, the two teams (from Uganda and DRC) will move together on the same boat in order to be able to assess the stocks of fish.
“We shall start with lake Albert because that is where the vessel will be based. After obtaining the data on fish catches and establishing the carrying capacity of the lake, we shall go be able to agree on how many boats, how many gears and what size can we sustainably afford on the lake,” said Nyeko.
The boat was donated courtesy of the Multinational Lakes Edward Albert Integrated Fisheries and Water Resources Management Project (LEAF II) project, the US$24 million investment programme that was implemented between 2016 and 2021.
The project was inspired by the need to improve the management of fisheries on the shared lakes as well as the sustainable management of the catchment areas of both lakes.
This high capacity self-contained vessel is equipped to host 12 scientists comfortably in the waters for 15 straight days conducting their research work. It has accommodation areas, resting places for crew and scientists, kitchen, eatery, science laboratory, toilets, working bench among others. The vessel comes with a separate fiberglass rescue boat and two inflatable life rafts each with capacity to rescue 8 people.
“I was impressed by the quality of work of the contractor, and remarkable progress that had been made since my last visit, two months prior,” said Dr. Winnie Nkalubo, the Director of the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI) which will take charge of the vessel.
Nkalubo added: “I am pleased to note that the contractor has taken time to understand the purpose for which the vessel is being built and I have no doubt that Uganda is getting a very well-done vessel,” she added. She further explained that the boat was slightly bigger, and its shape streamlined for speed and stability against turbulence, typical of a Rift Valley lake like Albert.
“Having this vessel will be a major boost to our research work because, with it, we shall conduct research that previously we didn’t have capacity for on Lake Albert,” added Dr. Nkalubo, during an inspection mission of the vessel in October 2021.
The research NaFIRRI intend to conduct with the vessel include, hydro-acoustic and bottom trawl surveys that will help estimate the quantity, composition and distribution of fish biomass (stock) in the lake, thereby determine the fish resource envelope. Others are bathymetric surveys to determine the depth profile of the lake, which will aid in among others navigation routes mapping. Using the vessel, NaFIRRI will collect sediment samples from the bottom of the lake for assessment of their composition, and do water sample collection and analysis among others.