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Spawning migrations of the endemic Labeobarbus (Cyprinidae, Teleostei) species of Lake Tana, Ethiopia: status and threats

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Abstract:

The reproductive biology of the only known intact species flock of large cyprinids, the 16 Labeobarbus species of Lake Tana (Ethiopia), has been extensively studied for the past two decades. Seven species of Labeobarbus are known to migrate >50 km upstream into tributary rivers for spawning during the rainy season (July to October), whereas eight other species are absent from these rivers and probably developed a new strategy of lacustrine spawning (macro‐spatial segregation). One species (L. intermedius) probably spawns in the lake as well as in the rivers. Between the early 1990s and 2000s, the riverine spawners showed a decline of 75% in both biomass and number in both fishery independent surveys and in commercial catches. Reproductive migration makes fishes vulnerable to fisheries and other threats like habitat modifications. Lacustrine spawners are probably more resilient as they are not known to form spawning aggregations that can easily be exploited by fishermen. In addition, upstream rivers and catchments around Lake Tana are highly degraded by erosion and recently subjected to intensive habitat modification for irrigation and hydroelectric power generation. This article reviews results of field studies on the Labeobarbus spawning migration from Lake Tana to spawning rivers, giving emphasis on segregation and homing. It also summarizes existing and emerging threats which form potential causes for the decline of the migratory Labeobarbus species. Knowledge gaps on the reproductive biology are identified for further investigation.

Document Type: Editorial

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8649.2012.03362.x

Publication date: July 1, 2012

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