The successful operations aimed at fighting illegal fishing were conducted by Nkora Marine station in collaboration with the fishing Union in Rutsiro District.
The Marine Commanding Officer (CO), Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Elias Mwesigye said that the operation was conducted on the Islands of Mafundugu and Nyanamo in Sector Musasa of Rutsiro District, where 16 wooden boats and 15 rolls of illicit fishing nets known as kaningini that were being used by the poachers, were also seized.
"On Mafundugu Island, we arrested six poachers and impounded nine boats and seven rolls of illicit fishing nets.
On Nyanamo Island, we arrested four poachers, impounded seven boats and eight rolls of illicit and destructive fishing gears,” ACP Mwesigye said.
He added: “The poachers committed, among others, illegal fishing, environmental degradation and violation of measures against the spread of covid-19, since they had no facemasks.”
The seized boats and fishing nets, he said, will be disposed-of.
“These are operations aimed at executing of Marine Police responsibilities, which include; maintaining safety and security of water bodies and increasing public awareness," the Commanding Officer said.
The awareness against illegal fishing and other unlawful practices in or on the shoreline, he said, targets mainly poachers and those who encroach and degrade buffer zone environment.
He outlined illegal fishing, smuggling, drug trafficking and violation of waterways regulations as the most prevalent offenses registered in Lake Kivu.
The CO observed that although illegal activities in Lake Kivu have decreased, illegal fishing has been persistent, thus efforts to curb it remain ongoing.
"It’s a challenge we are addressing together with other stakeholders including Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority (RURA), Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) and local authorities, among others," ACP Mwesigye said.
Issue of children safety
He further highlighted the concern of children from the shoreline communities, who play along the lake without any guardian and who might become delinquents due to interaction with poachers.
"Three of those caught during the operation are children, who were influenced by the poachers. We have also registered a number of children, who have drowned as a result of not being accompanied by responsible people."
ACP Mwesigye, however, said that there are joint efforts to designate safe swimming sites in an attempt to address the concern of drowning.
He urged parents to watch over their children to prevent them from partaking in such illegal activities and to prevent them from drowning.
The law N°58/2008 of 10/09/2008 determining the organization and management of aquaculture and fishing in Rwanda provides that the right to fishing in public waters is only granted by a competent authority, which issues the fishing license.
Any person, who engages in fishing activities without authorization shall be liable to a fine ranging from Rwf50,000 to Rwf200,000 and an imprisonment of 3 to 6 months or one of them, and dispossession of the equipment used.
Article 11 outlaws use of “poisonous substances aimed at stunning, weakening or killing fish; applying explosives; using electromagnetic procedures or electrocution; flashing water with an aim of capturing fish; fishing where water organisms are reproduced.”