Fishery department in Mwanza region has been urged to do everything at its disposal to ensure Tanzania regains its goodwill in European Union (EU) fish fillet market tainted by the Darwin’s Nightmare film.
The Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Environment, Job Ndugai made the appeal recently during the committee’s acquaintance tour which was aimed at inspecting various activities implemented by the fishery department in the region.
Ndugai expressed concerns that the international image of the fish-fillet exporting industry in Mwanza was still shaky due to the 2004 Darwin’s Nightmare film produced by an Austrian director based in France, Hubert Sauper.
Darwin’s Nightmare was purportedly a look at the economic and social impact of one small decision made fifty years ago the release of a bucket full of Nile Perch into Lake Victoria. Over time, the perch’s fleshy white fillets proved popular on European dinner tables and spawned an industry worth millions of pounds a month.
Mini boomtowns emerged on the lakeshore.
The film claims this business has exacted huge cost on the Tanzanian community.
They share in none of the profits, are exploited by overseas business interests, while ending up to consume fish leftovers, popularly known as mapanki in Kiswahili.
In August, the documentary drew a furious reaction from President Jakaya Kikwete with remarks that it had hurt the country’s image and caused a slump in exports of Nile Perch.
President’s diatribe was particularly directed at the film’s claim that the same planes that flew fish to Europe returned to the Great Lakes region laden with weapons.
In addition to clearing the industry’s image, Ndugai said that the issue of cleanliness in all stages related to fish processing should be given serious attention in order to retain export market share in the EU, as well as venturing into other world markets.
Some members of the Committee were of the opinion that it would be wise to establish an integrated system of fish processing that would ensure the leftovers are used productively, as in the production of animal and chicken feeds.
Mwanza region has a total of five fish processing plants and more than 19 fishlandings.
The industry employs more 500,000 people.
In its latest report on Nile Perch, Globefish, a division of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, said the Darwin’s Nightmare film had only briefly affected fish sales in the EU.
Far bigger factors in the decline in Nile Perch exports - worth $90m ($61m) to Tanzania last year, down from $100m in 2004 - were over-fishing and low water levels.