The Uganda Fish Maws Traders’ Association –UFTA has asked parliament
to clearly define in law the ‘fish maw size’, which they say continues to
create friction between the dealers and the Fish Protection Unit.
The Association is an umbrella body of 21 locally registered companies and
individuals dealing in fish maw as importers, exporters, processors, traders, a
transporter in East Africa. It employs about 5,000 people directly and
Led by the Association Chairman, John Kiyingi Ssamanya, the traders on Monday
appeared before the Agriculture Committee of Parliament which is currently
considering the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, 2021. The Bill seeks to
consolidate and reform the law relating to the management of fisheries products
and aquaculture due to emerging issues in the regulation and management of the
During the Law Revision of 2000, the Country's laws were reorganized and the
Fish and Crocodile Act became the Fish Act, which was further amended in
2011 to provide for the establishment of the Fisheries Fund and to permit the
retention and use of fees received by the Chief Fisheries Officer from the
issuance of licenses, permits and other activities for development and
management of the sector.
However, the government says that these amendments were not comprehensive
enough to fully address all challenges facing the fisheries sector because they
only focused on licences, the introduction of currency points and retention of
In their presentation to the committee, Kiyingi appealed for a clear definition
of fish maws sizes, court, gazetted or authorized areas for purposes of buying
and selling of fish maws.
He proposed that the Bill includes ‘fish maw size’ to mean any maw extracted from
the recommended size of the Nile Perch.
Fish maw is a by-product extracted from swim bladders of Nile Perch, which is
native to River Nile and Lake Albert in Uganda. The recommended mature Nile
Perch in Uganda is 20 inches and above.
Fish maw is also found in other large fish like Sturgeon, Catfish and Croaker
and it is a delicacy in China and Uganda’s fish maw is ranked fourth in the
World. The product is reported to be high in protein and taken by surgically
operated patients to quicken recovery. It is also used in manufacturing
surgical threads, melamine plates, cups and other utensils, car parts and
“The Fish Protection Unit and Uganda People’s Defence Forces -UPDF
soldiers have been confiscating our fish maw claiming that it is undersize yet
there is no gazetted size of fish maw. The sizes of fish maws differ within
mature fish depending on the portion of water source it has been fished,” reads
part of the Association document before the committee.
Simon Peter Musana, a fish maw trader together with others demonstrated fish
maw weighing differently from five Nile Perch of the same size. The fish maw
weighed between 20 grams to 40 grams.
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The traders told MPs that their fish maw stock has been confiscated and several
of their members imprisoned on allegations of having fish maw from non-gazetted
sources. Kiyingi says that gazetted sources have been misunderstood to only
mean licensed processing factories yet there is fish maw bought from open
markets like Busega, Kalerwe, Ntinda, Nakawa Markets, small scale traders and
other places having stalls for selling Nile perch with a license.
“If clause 89 of the Bill on traceability and source is to have an effect
as law, then all areas licensed or a person authorized to gut fish for purpose
of selling and buying fish and fisheries products, smoking, salting and sun-drying
fish should be declared as gazetted area,” said Musana.
The maw traders also want the magistrate’s court to have jurisdiction in the
area where the offence is committed saying that its absence has in the past
resulted in the fisheries officials using only Buganda Road Magistrates Court
for trying suspects yet they deal in perishable products which require timely
Sarah Babirye, a fish maw dealer in Katosi, Mukono district appealed to the
committee to intervene so that their businesses can survive.
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Janet Grace Okori-Moe, the Agriculture Committee Chairperson said that
they will review the proposals by the fish maw traders together with
others presented before them and make recommendations to Parliament.
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In July 2020, President Yoweri Museveni said that Uganda’s Nile Perch can grow
to 300 kilograms and that he had got a study that Ugandans can get a minimum
of US Dollars 150 billion a year from the Nile Perch.
“The meat of the Nile Perch is not important; it is the bladder, what they call
ennuni. It has got special qualities and is also expensive. A kilogramme is 10
million Shillings and one mature Nile Perch can give you three kilogrammes; so
such a bladder can get you 30 million, equivalent to US Dollars 9000,” Museveni