Nature Uganda: Musambwa Islands Conservation Project - Conservation Challenges (continuation)

The Islands contain a resident fishing community that has continued to expand leading to the destruction of the habitat and disturbance to the breeding colony for birds. Most of the community members are from the neighbouring fish landing sites and are entirely dependent on fishing. This has led to the steady increase of fishermen settling at the islands to access deeper waters of the lake resulting into increased pressure on the already stretched capacity at the landing sites particularly the Islands. 
Overfishing is a major problem which is leading to depletion of fish stocks especially in waters immediately surrounding the islands. This, combined with poor post harvest handling of fish as well as limited access to the markets especially by the poor, has led to substantial loss of income and consquently increasing poverty levels. Also increase in fishery related activities, such as opening and clearing the islands vegetation for fish-drying grounds and creating space for make-shift houses and cutting bushes /trees for smoking fish has further increased pressure on the habitat leading to degradation and to a great extent hindering the survival of some key biodiversity such as breeding birds in particular, the breeding colonies of the Grey headed Gull, the Little Egret and Cormorants. 
Given the transient nature of the fishermen coupled with inadequate environmental awareness, there is considerable breakdown of the traditional pro-conservation norms and practices such as sustainable harvesting of gull eggs. Traditionally, the practice was to harvest one egg from the nest before incubation period which ensured steady supply to the then small population at the island as well as enabling the successful breeding of birds. However, with increased influx of people of different origins, this practice has been greatly compromised leading to reduced breeding success of bird species. Additionally, the eggs are increasingly attracting higher commercial value on the mainland, and this has affected the bird populations on the islands.
Again, the local people at both the islands and the fish landing sites located in the mainland require wood for fuel and shelter construction. Yet there is less wood and vegetation resources on the islands since the islands are generally rocky. Despite this, the wood and vegetation resources have become the only source of materials for shelter construction and fish smoking for the fishermen. This coupled with inadequate technical knowledge of community members in habitat management and restoration has resulted into vegetation degradation thus leading to loss of cover for breeding birds, increased predation and post harvest losses.
At the moment, access to and settlement at the islands is largely free and adhoc. The Musambwa islands bye-law that was developed attempted to address this issue but does not provide for explicit enforcement of the provision. The bye-law was approved by the local government but is yet to be gazetted nationally and thus enforcement of its provisions. As a result, there is considerable inadequacy in the bye-law that was developed and will require further strengthening. The result is excessive number of people accessing and / or settling at the islands resulting into increased pressure on the habitat.