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Fish stocks on the rebound in East Africa’s Lake Victoria

The national fisheries research institutes of Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya have reported a 30% recovery of the main fish stocks in Lake Victoria, the largest inland lake on the African continent.

STATUS OF FISH STOCKS ON LAKE VICTORIA 2017

The Status of Fish Stocks in Lake Victoria 2017 report was released this week by the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI) of Uganda, the Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) of Kenya and the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI).

Among other fish species indigenous to the lake, researchers noted higher recovery rates for the Nile perch and the haplochromine, which is commonly known by its vernacular name of “nkejje”.

The Nile perch in Lake Victoria is now estimated at 1.12 million tons, up from just 0.85 million tons in 2016. The nkejje was estimated at 0.73 million tons, up from 0.47 million tons last year.

Researchers also noted that the majority of the Nile perch were very small in size, often measuring less than the minimum length of 50 cm required by law to be eligible for harvesting.

A sharp decline was noted in silverfish, whose prey includes the Nile perch. Silverfish stocks are currently estimated at 0.7 million tons, which marks a 50% decline from the 1.39 million tons recorded in the last species-specific survey in 2015.

Due to the lack of deep-water research equipment, the 2017 survey did not cover tilapia, although it is one of the most widely distributed fish species of Lake Victoria. The research was co-ordinated by the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation, which conducts annual surveys to monitor fish populations.

MAINTAINING THR GROWTH TRAJECTORY

Uganda National Fisheries Resources Research Institute Executive Director Anthony Taabu-Munyaho told local media that the relevant states should restrict the harvesting of the nkejje species in order to sustain the recovery of the Nile perch, whose main prey is the nkejje.

Edward Rukuunya, Fisheries Director at the Ugandan Ministry of Agriculture, said the countries bordering on Lake Victoria can maintain the recovery trajectory by enforcing existing laws against illegal fishing and the practice of indiscriminate, over-exploitative fishing methods.

“We should not be using destructive methods to harvest fish resources, but that is increasing in Lake Victoria. We should wait until the fish grow to the required size before we issue permits to start harvesting,” he said.

Among other interventions, Uganda has banned the use of imported fishing nets, most of which are designed to catch even the smallest fish, and replaced them with a local product that is designed to trap bigger and mature fish.

The use of nets that are less than 5 inches is banned for tilapia fishing, while nets that are less than 7 inches are not allowed for Nile perch fishing. The report attributed the increasing stock recovery rate to the ongoing crackdown against illegal fishing by the armies of Uganda and Tanzania.

Lake Victoria falls within the Nile River-Lake Victoria basin and borders on Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. The basin sustains fisheries-based livelihoods for up to 30 million people in 10 countries including Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.

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