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An overview of the current status of Lake Victoria fishery: Opportunities, challenges and management strategies

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Lake Victoria is African's most important source of inland fishery production, exhibiting an annual catch of ≈500 000 mt. The lake moderates local climate, serves as a means of transport, and a source of human food and raw material for the fishmeal industry. The introduction of Nile perch transformed the fisheries from a locally based artisanal fishery to a national and international capital investment industry. The fisheries produce an annual income of $US 600 million, providing employment opportunities for over 3 million people. Although the benefits of transforming the fishery of Lake Victoria appear to be quite remarkable, the negative impacts of this development are even more dramatic.

Several challenges face the lake fishery, including environmental degradation, the introduction of exotic species, overfishing, and a fish export ban. Nutrients inputs into the lake have resulted in eutrophication and increased algal blooms. Deteriorated water quality and increased anoxia have caused the displacement and decline of some fish species. Exotic tilapiines have hybridized, displacing the indigenous fish species. Nile perch predation has caused the disappearance of once abundant native fish species. The once complex food web is now dominated by Nile perch. Unhygienic fishing methods have led to several fish export bans, while water hyacinth invasion in the lake has affected water quality, fishing and transportation possibilities. The current top-down management and use of different regulations by the riparian states have been a major drawback to sustainable management of the lake. There is a need for a paradigm shift, in which the lake is considered to be one ecosystem and relevant stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process.
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Keywords: Lates; exotic introductions; haplochromines; management; overfishing; tilapiines

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, PO Box 1881 Kisumu, Kenya, 2: Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, Moi University, PO Box 1125, Eldoret, Kenya, 3: Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, PO Box 81651, Mombasa, Kenya, 4: Fisheries Resource Research Institute, PO Box 343, Jinja, Uganda

Publication date: 2008-03-01

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