Rwanda is a land-locked country with an estimated surface area of 26,338 sq. km of which 1,390 is water surface. Rwanda fishing is mostly done on Lake Kivu and the rest of the fish comes from smaller lakes such as Lake Muhazi, Lake Mugesera, rivers and swamps.
The national fish production is estimated at 13,000 tons of which capture fisheries contribute 9,000 tons and aquaculture 4,000 tons. Rwanda is currently by far a net importer of fish from neighboring Uganda and Tanzania. However, it is important to note that Rwanda also re-exports most of the imported fish to the DRC. Fisheries and Aquaculture sectors provide 200,000 jobs (both direct and downstream jobs) though it is not a traditional enterprise.
The sector which is managed largely through local governments and cooperatives falls under the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI
With the projected 16 million people by 2020, the country will need 112,000 tons of fish annually if the population is to catch up with the average fish consumption in Sub Sahara Africa.
Artisanal fishing has been practiced in Rwanda for decades by small fishers and farmers, with increased value of fish over the years, there has been increase in fishing capacity along with fishing malpractices leading to overfishing in all the waters.
Fish species in Rwanda
- Nile Tilapia
- Tanganyika Sardine
Most of the fishing in Rwandan waters is done by local communities using imported fishnets and locally made wood canoes.
Methods of fishing used in Rwanda include;
- Hooking: This is where a hook is used to catch fish, the bait is fixed on a hook to attract the fish and this bait is in form of a worm or an insect and as the fish swallow the bait, it is attracted.
- Gill netting: This is where fish is caught by their gills in a net, this net is hang in water held
by floats and weights which carry it down.
- Lampara method: This is where a unit of three canoes are linked by two wooden bars, a lamp and fisher men. It was introduced in Rwanda to catch Isambaza on Lake Kivu. It is used at night where light provided by lamps attract fish and as the fish come, the net is lifted over them and thus caught.
- Spearing or shooting method: This is where arrows, spears or bows are used to catch fish.
- Scoop net method: This is where a net is held in water and is lifted by the fisher men when ever fish is detected passing over. It is used together with light at night to attract fish to the net.
- Cast net method: This is where a circular net is used and is put in water, spread and trap fish beneath.
Challenges in Fishing in Rwanda
- Lack of a fish eating tradition that did not consider fish as a high value commodity.
- Poor regulatory framework of the fishing effort and fishing methods.
- Uncoordinated and unfocussed development projects leading to unsustainable outputs.
- Environmental pollution of water systems by excessive erosion of farmlands. Almost total depletion of natural fish stocks through overfishing.
- Inadequate Fishing cooperatives that are geared towards harvesting with no inputs into the fisheries.
- Lack of private sector investments in the sub-sector.
- Lack of interest in fisheries and aquaculture at the district level hence low rating of the sector. There is very little local leadership support to fisheries and aquaculture development in almost all the districts.
- Lack of institutions for management of research and advisory services.
- There is no reliable data on the size of the fish stocks to guide management decisions.
- There are species introduction without adequate studies in contravention to CBD and FAO code for responsible fisheries.
- Poor linkage of aquaculture and other agriculture production systems.
- Insufficient trained human resource to manage the sector.
- Significant high post harvest losses of the little fish harvested from the lakes.
- Lack of aquaculture technologies and innovations.
- Insufficient advisory services.
- Lack of fisheries and aquaculture inputs including seed, feed, gear, equipments and others on the local market.