New research green-lights use of solar lights in fishing on Lake Albert

Fishermen use solar lamps to catch mukene on Lake Albert at Butyaba landing site in Buliisa District. (Image: Kazi-njema News)

It has been established that use of electric solar lamps in fishing on Lake Albert is safe among the fishing communities as well as being environmentally friendly, according to a new research conducted by scientists.

The research was conducted following conflicting harvesting techniques especially between fishermen targeting small species and those dealing in larger species of fish in which argument opponents’ feared that solar lights are too strong that fishermen end up catching fish and other aquatic life that is not intended to be caught recommending use of kerosene lanterns in the fishing activity.

This challenge resulted in banning the use of solar lamps in fishing on Lake Albert where fishermen catching mukene (rastrineobola argentea), lagogi (brycinus nurse) and muziri (engraulicypris bredoi) type of fishes are common and use the solar lamps.

The ban resulted in the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute conducting a research on the matter; concluding that fishing using electric solar lights is a better and safer approach to the fishing activity.

Dr Brian Isabirye, the Commissioner for Renewable Energy in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, stressed in the discussion about the research findings that use of electric solar lights is environmentally friendly and do not present any possibility into the lake while the fishermen are equally safe from any fire outbreaks at the lake.

“These lights will improve efficiency of the fishermen, reduce pollution of the lake and make it safer for fishermen in case of any fires during fishing. It is such technologies that government looks to promote,” he submitted.

Dr Isabirye discouraged use of kerosene saying it presents several challenges including putting the lives of fishermen at risk in case of any fore outbreak.

The commissioner regretted that Lake Albert and Lake Victoria have had great levels of pollution with kerosene during the fishing activity.

He ruled out government’s rush to banning use of paraffin lamps clearly saying that it would rather promote use of electric solar lights, enhance access and facilitate loans to enable fishermen to access them and be competitive in the trade.

“We shall not ban the use of kerosene lanterns but rather encourage the fishermen access the solar lights. We shall work with the traders and the entire private sector to avail the lights to the fishing community at a subsidised price,’ Dr Isabirye added.

The research policy brief also recommended the regulation of net panels to only 16m on Lake Albert to control the rising by-catch of aquatic life.

It is further recommended that there should be prevention of overfishing by restricting fishing nets to 8mm on Lake Albert while this would enable fish stock protection.

Mr Bernard Mbaine, the Executive Director Uganda National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Alliance, says the research followed a straight ban that was slapped on the use of solar lights which the agency had promoted for long as a safe and cost effective option.

“We had sensitised the fishermen about the use of this clean energy technology but many complaints came up alleging that the lights encourage a lot of by-catch although there was no evidence to that,” he says.


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