Thursday July 18 2013

Fish stocks in L. Victoria face depletion

By Flavia Lanyero


Lake Victoria is on the path of losing most of its fish stocks if unsustainable fishing practices continue, experts have warned following decades of observation.

Mr Marcel Kroese, an expert on monitoring, control and surveillance for Smart Fish, a fishing company, said the water body could face the same problems as Lake Malawi. The lake has already lost more than 93 per cent of its fish stocks due to open access, limited surveillance and governance which are also rampant in all landing sites on Lake Victoria.

A 2008 study by the Lake Victoria Environmental Management Programme showed that tilapia dropped from 27,061 tonnes to 24,811 in 2008 while a couple of fish species were extinct.

Mr Kroese also said premature fish is being caught which affects its ability to reproduce. “Scientists recommend that fish should have the ability to reproduce before they are caught, but unfortunately, we find a lot of baby fish on the market,” Mr Kroese said.

The legal size for tilapia is 25 centimetre while that of Nile Perch is six to eight centimetres. The 2012 State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report shows that more than half of all monitored fish stocks are now fully exploited, especially in inland waters with no room for expansion.

This, experts, say raises concerns of food insecurity in the near future since fish accounts for 17 per cent of the world population’s intake of animal protein.

An expert on food security, Mr Davide Signa, said recently introduced measures like aquaculture are not permanent solutions to the problem. He said since the practice involves keeping fish in ponds, it cannot be sustained by a common fisherman because it is too expensive and requires patience for the fish to mature.

Uganda is the leading producer and consumer for inland fisheries products in Africa contributing 2.5 per cent to its Gross Domestic Product.

The programme manager of European Union in Kenya, Mr Pietro Nardi, said illegal fishing can only be reduced through effective coordination among member countries and sensitisation.