By Lydia Labanya
The Electronic Catch Assessment Survey (e-CAS), funded by the International Development Research Centre, Canada and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, has promoted access to comprehensive fisheries data from Lakes Albert and Victoria, in real-time. With data such as fish catch quantity, type of fishing nets and boats used, and how much money the fishers expect to earn.
“e-CAS is valuable for real-time data capture, analysis and timely reporting. The availability of this data is leading to improved fisheries management, including better monitoring of fish catches to ensure sustainability, informed licensing of new boats and fishers to support livelihoods, and increased availability in fish for consumption to enhance local food and nutrition security,” Patrick Bwire, Systems Administrator, The National Fisheries Resources Research institute (NaFIRRI) said.
The efficient data-sharing system also allows for fish preservation by monitoring fish stocks of the local lakes by gauging the amount of fish caught.
‘’e-CAS will allow us to know whether the lake is being overfished and if one boat has been catching 10 kg of fish and now there are five boats in the same place catching 3 kg, this is an indication of the lake being overfished, ’Bwire said.
Bwire said Lake managers employed to control the activities of the lake, such as type of fishing nets or boats used, water pollution, overfishing can instantly access data on the value of the fish landed and estimate the revenue for each boat at a particular landing site.
“We want to know the type of boat, the gear size that was used, if it is a small seine net [a net that hangs vertically], what is the mesh size, how many days do the fishers work in a week, and then we want to know the species or the type of fish that has been landed, ’Bwire said.
Anthony Basooma, a research scientist at NaFIRRI, said they want to know how much is earned from fishing Mukene in Uganda, or Dagaa in Tanzania, or Omena in Kenya.
‘’These figures are then used by researchers and government bodies, such as the Directorate of Fisheries Resources and the Fisheries Protection Unit to assess the value of the fishing industry – and whether the lakes are being overfished, ’Basooma said.
Ocakacon, a trained data collector said the mobile app has facilitated timely data collection.
“Before the app, we used papers to ask questions to the fishers. It was a tiresome job because it took a lot of time and could take weeks before an official agent would collect the files,” said Ocakacon
Muhammed, a trained data collector based at Lake Albert. “With the paper system, someone could just sit at home and guess where a boat had been and what fish were caught, but with the e-CAS technology and GPS coordinates, even head office in the city knows where the boats are, so enumerators cannot make it up.”
Peter Enyou, another enumerator at Kikondo landing site on Lake Victoria, explained that the previous system often led to data inaccuracies.
‘’It normally used to take two days to physically carry out and look at the census of the boats and the fish landed to make an estimate of the fish stocks, ’Enyou said.
With the technology already in place in Tanzania and Uganda as part of the LVFO partnership, it will be easier for other countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo – which shares Lake Albert with Uganda – to invest in the same technology, according to Basooma.