THE government has challenged the National Fish Quality Control Laboratory (NFQCL) to carry out regular inspection and testing of fish products amid fear of growing illegal fishing practices in Lake Victoria.
Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Dr Charles Tizeba said here over the weekend that the laboratory has to conduct regular surveillance and carry out thorough testing to ensure local and international consumers get quality products.
Dr Tizeba said testing will not only provide a guarantee on the quality and safety of fish but would also attract and increase reliable markets of the products from the Africa’s largest lake.
He also challenged NFQCL experts to shun business-as- usual style of performing their duties and set up strategic plans for monitoring and surveillance since people engaged in illegal fishing had many tricks a well. “You are tasked with a noble responsibility of safeguarding the health of fish consumers by means of testing, which must be maintained by introducing new mechanisms,” he said.
Dr Tizeba mentioned some the mechanisms as spot checks in all beaches and fish markets. He was aware of certain businessmen from some neighbouring countries, particularly the Democratic Republic of the Congo who were notoriously engaged and linked to illegal fishing practices.
While evidence of fish consumers being supplied with inferior products has been hard to obtain, the minister said the government was not ready to see the health of its citizens being compromised. He mentioned Lamadi, Mikoma, Mwigobelo, Nyamikazi, Nkome and Maisome as some of the fishing markets in need of regular surveillance. He also called on the laboratory management to link up with local government authorities for fruitful operations.
Briefing the Minister, the acting NFQCL Chief Executive Officer, Hamis Kinanda, said the agency has encountered a number of bottlenecks that affect its performance. He mentioned some of them as the inability for the laboratory to perform some testing and being forced therefore to send samples in certified labs outside the country.
“We are still unable to perform chemical testing since our facility is not yet being certified.
That compels us to send the samples to South Africa and Uganda which cost us so dearly,” he said. He said at least 300 samples of fish species, 100 samples of water and 46 samples of soils are collected and sent to South Africa Bureau of Standards (SABS) and Chemiphar Labs in Uganda for intensive testing and millions of shillings are needed for the facilitation.
Kinanda requested the government to motivate workers in order to retain them as some are already quitting their jobs for greener pastures. “We also ask the chemical labs to be certified, provide regular training for our experts and, more important, setting a centralised Scheme of Service which will recognise them according to their professions,” he said.