Experts warn of overfishing in Lake Victoria

Fish scarcity is set to hit Lake Victoria due to overfishing, experts have warned.

A small scale trader cleans fish at the shores of Lake Victoria. Experts have warned that fish shortage could hit the lake soon. PHOTO/FILE 

BY DALTON NYABUNDI

IN SUMMARY

  • The disappearance of the water weed has witnessed an increase in the number of vessels going into the lake
  • Indigenous species of lung and mud fish species that thrive under the carpet of water hyacinth have dropped in numbers

Fish scarcity is set to hit Lake Victoria due to overfishing, experts have warned.

This has been attributed to the disappearance of water hyacinth from the Kenyan side of the lake.

The disappearance of the water weed, that has for the past two decades hampered deep offshore fishing, has witnessed an increase in the number of vessels going into the lake.

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Fishermen are now coming to terms with the reality that the unwanted weed is a blessing in disguise as it forms habitat for easy catch as they are now forced to move deep into the lake where the dwindling stocks of Nile perch and tilapia are found.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, the disappearance of the weed has also led to a drastic decline in shallow water fish species.

The indigenous species of lung and mud fish species that thrive under the carpet of such vegetation have dropped in numbers.

The Kisumu County Fisheries Liaison officer Jonam Etyang’ said the species have moved to the bed of the lake making them difficult to catch. This, he says, poses overfishing threats to the offshore species.

“The indigenous species thrive in dark areas and tend to move to the muddy floor when the hyacinth is carried away by the wind or is eradicated,” he said during an interview with the Nation.

The dwindling stocks of the popular tilapia and Nile Perch fish species following the encroachment of the weed over the past two decades had forced the fishermen to resort to the indigenous ones that could easily be fished in the hyacinth infested waters.

A spot check by the Nation along Lake Victoria fishing beaches and fish markets has revealed that there is a growing preference for the indigenous species following an increase in the prices of the formerly popular species.

The hyacinth that carpeted the lake had made it difficult for fishermen to go deep into the lake where the popular species breed.

“When the hyacinth was removed, the shallow water dark loving breeds became easier to catch with the sein nets. This is because these species breed ashore and only came to shallow ends because the vegetation covered them forming a habitat,” said Mr Etyang.

Mr Etyang’ however said the hyacinth has only been blown away by wind and is expected to start clustering over the lake again in November.

The government, through the National Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation had launched an initiative to use a device known as water master, to manually remove the weed.

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