‘Mukene’ now dominant fish in Lake Victoria

Kampala. Conservationists have raised a red flag on the decline of both tilapia and Nile perch fish species in Lake Victoria, a situation they say threatens fish export.

This was disclosed at a public debate organised by Nature Uganda in Kampala entitled “The plight of Lake Victoria: A dying and yet valued asset.”

Dr Anthony Taabu Munyaho, an aquatic engineering and gear technology officer from the National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO), said Lake Victoria is experiencing depletion of Tilapia and Nile perch fish, both commercially viable species.

“There have been an increase of both Silverfish (Mukene) and Daaga (Enkejje) in Lake Victoria and the decrease of tilapia and Nile perch, which in the 1990s, had increased to 10 per cent per micro mile,” Dr Munyaho said, attributing the reduction to over fishing, pollution and over population.

Statistics from the Department of Fisheries Resources show that fish exports increased from 1,664 tonnes worth $1.4 million (about Shs3.5 billion) in 1990 to 36,615 tonnes worth $143.6 million (about Shs362.6 billion)in 2005, but dropped sharply back to 16,480 tonnes fetching $89.1m (about Shs225b) by 2011.

Tilapia was introduced in Lake Victoria in the 1950s by the British colonial administrators to boost Uganda’s fish exports and took close to 20 years to multiply to commercially viable stock. The debate attended by different environmentalists and civil society organisations at the Uganda Museum was aimed at finding solutions to protect the 68,800 km² lake.

Dr Munyaho differed with the popular conservationists’ view that Lake Victoria is dying out.

“I don’t agree with the view that the lake is dying. This is being alarmist. Only 17 per cent of the lake is affected but we all can sustain the lake,” Dr Munyaho said. But his view was disputed his colleagues.

Prof William Banage, a council member of the Uganda National Academy of Sciences, said claiming Lake Victoria is not dying is diversionary because it is obvious human activities have affected the lake without political will to enforce the existing laws.

Ms Emily Arayo Arinaitwe, the regional communications officer of Uganda Coalition of Sustainable Development, said corruption and lack of political will are killing all the efforts to protect the lake.

Recently, Cabinet said they would cancel all land titles acquired in wetlands around Lake Victoria in order to stop pollution of the lake.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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