At least 30 Kenyan fishermen who were arrested by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) officials in Suba North and Suba South in Homa Bay County on Saturday have been set free after paying a collective fine of Sh180,000.

The fishermen, who were being detained on Hama Island in Uganda, were freed on Sunday night.

They were accused of trespass and use of illegal fishing gears in Lake Victoria.

According to Homa Bay County Beach Management Units Networks Chairman Edward Oremo, the fishermen were accused of using ice during fishing.

The ice increases the shelf life of fish, therefore enabling fishermen to stay in the lake for several days.

Mr Oremo said the Ugandan government does not permit this practice.

“The fishermen were also accused of using fishing nets that would capture all types of fish including small ones. The nets discourage breeding,” he said.

The BMU officer said by phone that the men were earlier expected to be taken to court on Monday.

But after negotiations, the officers in Uganda resolved to set them free after paying the fine.

Among the 10 boats that were confiscated, six boats were each fined Sh30,000.

The other four boats were released without paying any fine.

“The other four boats were released after their owners negotiated with the Ugandan officials,” Mr Oremo said.

After payment, the fishermen were also given back their fishing gears and warned against using the prohibited nets.

Homa Bay County Commissioner Harman Shambi said on Monday that the fishermen were already in Kenya.

Meanwhile, the fishing community in Homa Bay has called for government intervention to tame the arrests of fishermen by Ugandan authorities.

“We call on Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to fulfil his promise of protecting Kenyans fishermen in Lake Victoria against harassment by Ugandan authorities,” Mr Oremo said.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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