Lake Victoria at 68,800 square kilometres is Africa’s largest lake and the largest tropical lake in the world. It is the habitat for catfish, lungfish, and multitudes of tiny silver dagaa, or silver cyprinids. However, the Nile perch, an invasive species introduced by British colonizers is the favorite for Europe’s supermarkets and its numbers are dwindling.
Until the 1950s the lakes native species were too meager to support a large-scale fishing industry. In that decade British colonial administrators seeded the lake with Nile perch from Lake Albert, located on the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
According to the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization, stocks of the valuable fish are in rapid decline from over fishing and pollution. The annual catch has fallen from 1.29 million tons in 2001 to 820,000 tons in 2006.
The lake lies within an elevated plateau in the western part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley and is subject to territorial administration by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
Economic necessity makes more and more fishermen from all these countries, vying to get the prized catch of the fatty Nile perch.
Charles Lubulwa, a middleman who sells to fish-processing plants on the mainland said:
Here on the island, perch sells for 2,000 shillings a kilo [2.2 pounds], that same perch goes for 2,500 [shillings] in Kampala and for nearly 4,000 once it’s cleaned and shipped to Europe or Korea. With prices like that there will always be more fishermen.
Nile perch can grow to more than 5 feet (150 centimeters) long and weigh as much as 400 pounds (180 kilograms). Its demand in Europe has resulted in lesser local people consuming it. As the cost has quadrupled over the last decade, the amount of fish protein consumed by Ugandans each year has fallen from 22 pounds (10 kilograms) per capita to 4.5 pounds (2 kilograms) today.
Tim Baily with a whopping 70kg (155lb) Nile Perch
While the international demand grows, efforts should be made to replenish the stocks of Nile perch, keeping in mind that they do not harm other native species.
Source: National Geographic