Police have warned against illegal activities in water bodies and intensified operations to combat acts that influence aquatic animals and endanger the life of people.
Elias Mwesigye, Commander of the Police Marine Unit, Assistant Police Commissioner (ACP), said that increased operations in water bodies in different parts of the country led to the arrest of over 160 poachers this year between January and July.
“We also seized over 5300 illegal or substandard fishing nets during the same period,” ACP Mwesigye said.
The operations, he explained, are done alongside awareness campaigns that teach people about the law, legal and illegal fishing practices, water safety, and the role of people in maritime safety.
“The intensified campaigns on marine safety are meant to also reduce or eliminate accidents resulting from substandard vessels, not wearing life-jackets and abuse of water safety standards,” he added.
According to police records, at least 65 individuals drowned in the first seven months of this year.
The Marine Commanding Officer stated that drowning instances are linked to unaccompanied kids playing on the side of lakes and rivers, lack of swimming abilities, use of substandard ships, absence of security equipment such as life jackets, drunkenness and suicide, among others.
He further clarified that shared lakes, particularly Kivu, are vulnerable to marine- related offences because of their vast region.
He said that Lake Kivu alone accounted for 96 percent of the impounded illegal fishing nets.
“The increased operations and joint sensitization with local leaders, targeting specific groups like communities living near these water bodies, fishermen and passengers, is also meant to fight smuggling and drug trafficking, which are common in shared lakes especially Kivu, and to discourage farming practices which are within the buffer zone (50 metres),” ACP Mwesigye said.
Rwanda has 34 lakes, three of which are shared with neighboring nations.
The shared reservoirs are Lake Kivu crossing the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as Lake Rweru and Cyohoha shared with Burundi.