TROUBLED WATERS OF LAKE VICTORIA

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  • Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake and 2nd in the world
  • Pollution of lake Victoria is a major concern
  • Overfishing and illegal fishing gear has been greatly mentioned

 

Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake and, by surface area, is second only to Lake Superior in North America. Situated within Tanzania, Uganda and bordered by Kenya, the lake is rich in biodiversity. However, a recent report found that of 234 native freshwater fish species in the Lake Victoria Basin, 86 are classified as threatened. Pollution was highlighted as a danger to 90.2% of the lake’s native fish species.

 

Lake Victoria pollution The management of industrial waste has been a major concern with environmental bodies protecting Lake Victoria. Image Afrik21

 

Overfishing on the shores of Lake Victoria has become so rampant that it’ s threatening the lake with a possibility of dying along with fish because of over fertilization, this is the process by which a water body becomes rich in dissolved nutrients from fertilizer or sewage, therefore, encouraging the growth and decomposition of oxygen  and depleting plant life like algae and harming other organisms in the lake.

The processing factories that send fillets and cans abroad won’ t accept small fish as they are mostly immature and have little meat between their bones.

CHINESE FACTOR

Fish factories in Kenya have been closed due to increased number of Chinese factories, turning fishermen into economic refugees. Out of the over ten fish factories in Kenya, only 15 are still operational. In Kisumu, two of the four factories have closed down.

All the factories are operating below capacity . Overfishing, catching immature fish, environmental degradation and pollution of Lake Victoria is killing the Nile perch, which forms the backbone of commercial fishing in the country. The young fish are starving and suffocating to death.

Information from the ministry of fisheries indicates that micro- organisms in the lake, the continent’ s largest, on which the young fish feed are also dying. This is brought about by the floating algae bloom on the lake that is poisoning the fish and cutting off oxygen supply to marine life.

 

 

Hyacinth on Lake Victoria The Water Hyacinth is an invasive plant from South America, now calling Lake Victoria home. Image Afrik21

 

INVASIVE WATER HYACINTH

 

Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes (Mart.) Solms) is an invasive aquatic macrophyte associated with major negative economic and ecological impacts to the Lake Victoria region since the plant’s establishment in Uganda in the 1980s. Water hyacinth can completely cover lakes and wetlands, outcompeting native aquatic species, reducing oxygen levels for fish, and creating ideal habitat for disease-carrying mosquitoes.

For the fishermen seeking tilapia, Nile perch, and tiny silver cyprinids known here as omena, the weed has dramatically cut their catches. Shallower parts of the lake are literally being choked of oxygen as dead hyacinth biomass sinks to the bottom and rots, a bacterial process that sucks oxygen from the water.  The heavy plants also calm the lake’s surface, cutting its wave flow and further reducing the air getting into its waters. That creates conditions where major species that need oxygen-rich water are dying out.

suspended solids in the water reduce light penetration transparency, which has a lot of negative effects on all aquatic organisms, decomposition/decay of dead algae or other organisms consumes a lot of oxygen and hence competes with the fish, their prey and other aquatic organisms for dissolved oxygen, affecting the stability of the whole aquatic ecosystem.

The result from the above scenarios is that the fish will die or will be under stressful conditions (due to lack of oxygen and food), meaning they will not be able to reproduce and grow well (the survivors), hence reduced stocks, Most young Nile perch stay in shallow waters near the shores to avoid high winds and being eaten by bigger Nile perch, the Nile perch is dying young because the organisms the fish feeds on also die.

 

ILLEGAL FISHING ACTIVITY

 

A government official, who spoke to an international NGO on condition of anonymity, claimed the volume of undeclared and illegally caught fish was almost double the declared tonnage. According to the official, most undeclared fish is shipped out of the region by large organized crime syndicates.

The Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization, a specialized institution of the East African Community, says the use of illegal fishing equipment has been increasing for over a decade. This includes prohibited nets, small hooks and monofilament nets. The Organization and member country research institutions jointly release annual figures on fish production from Lake Victoria.

In its Fisheries Management Plan for the period 2016- 20, the LVFO notes that the annual haul is around a million tonnes worth over US$800 million. The industry provides direct employment for more than 800 000 people. Illegal and undeclared fishing puts these livelihoods at risk. A strong, functional and uncorrupted response is crucial in fighting large- scale illegal fishing around Lake Victoria.

Up till now, law enforcement has focused on artisanal fishermen. In many instances, individuals from Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya are arrested for fishing outside their country’ s territorial waters or using illegal fishing equipment.

Gangs That drive illegal Fishing In Lake Victoria Are Also Involved In Wildlife Crime

Illegal fishing gear (including trawl nets), and unorthodox fishing methods such as poisoning, contribute to the depletion of species. Such methods also fuel hostility among local fishermen, as fish become scarce, The Kenyan state official said other forms of organized crime occurred alongside illegal fishing. These networks are also involved in wildlife crime, including the poaching of species such as hippopotamus, pangolins and snakes especially pythons.

 

Fishing activity, kisumu Fishing is a major economic activity along the shores of Lake Victoria in Kisumu, Kenya.

 

He said law enforcement officers from the three countries were complicit in the ‘ pipeline of organized crime in the lake’ , and that police received bribes of up to US$3 000 per shipment from these transnational crime groups as a ‘ protection fee, 2018 study found that ‘ corruption fuels illegalities and undermines the legitimacy of fisheries co- management’ in Lake Victoria. It points out that corruption in managing the lake is systemic, involving officials such as the police and judiciary in all three countries.

The laws of these three countries ban overfishing and unconventional practices such as the use of firearms, explosives, electrical shock devices or toxic substances for fishing. These methods are frequently used by organized criminal groups. The impact on the environment is severe, as are the associated revenue losses.

 

NILE PERCH , TOP PREDATOR

 

Records show that the Nile perch has declined from an average of 1. 2 million tonnes from 1999 to 2007, to about 800, 000 today; while silver fish has increased from about 400, 000 to one million tonnes over the same period, Other groups, mainly Nile tilapia and haplochromines have increased from 300, 000 to about 600, 000 tonnes. However, the trends show that when you compare the two, Nile tilapia seems to have increased while haplochromines declined, The increase in the smaller fish species is attributed to the decrease on the Nile perch which preys on them. Nile perch is the top predator. Once the number of predators goes down, its prey increases, Nile perch accounts for about 70 per cent of Lake Victoria biomass, overtaking which accounted for 80 per cent of the lake biomass when the Nile perch was introduced into Lake Victoria in the 1950s and 1960s for sport fishing.

 

by Samuel ldewa onyaiti

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