On-again off-again ban is finally on

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Following strong public criticism, the Ugandan government has beaten a hasty retreat and reinstated an earlier ban on catching immature fish for local and export purposes.

Following strong public criticism, the Ugandan government has beaten a hasty retreat and reinstated an earlier ban on catching immature fish for local and export purposes.

Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries made the announcement to cheers and applause from fish pressure groups who attended a press conference.

"Since the public pronouncement, concerns have been raised about the potential collapse of all fisheries and the possibility of depleting the over-fished stocks in territorial waters.

"There were concerns about the negative impact on the image of Ugandan fish as extracted from unsustainably managed fisheries by governments abroad or consumers sensitive to environment matters," he said.

The ban on catching immature fish was announced in August 2002. It stipulated a minimum size of 50cm/20" for Nile perch and 28cm/11" for tilapia.

However, President Yoweri Museveni lifted the ban on October 19, following reports that the officials enforcing it were harassing fish traders and making a killing by selling confiscated fish.

This touched off a spirited public condemnation of the President's directive.

In a move to allay the fears of the fish dealers, Kisamba said the services of enforcement officers had been terminated and that new ones will be recruited.