By Chris Kiwawulo
AT LEAST 200 fish species, especially the Cichlid stock have disappeared from Lake Victoria over the past 40 years, a survey has revealed.
The study, carried out by the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute showed that over 600 species existed in the lake in the 1960s, before the introduction of the Nile Perch.
The Nile Perch is largely responsible for the Cichlidsâ€™ depletion as it feeds on most of them, revealed the instituteâ€™s deputy executive director, Dr. Lucas Ndawula. Cichlids span a wide range of body sizes, from species as small as 2.5 centimetres in length.
Cichlid species include Angelfish, Oscars, Aulonocara species, Firemouth Cichlid, Golden Tropheops, Bumblebees, Sarotherodons, Tilapia and haplochromines (nkejje).
Ndawula also noted that the annual fish landings, especially of Nile Perch and Tilapia had reduced forcing its price to increase.
On September 22, The Saturday Vision reported that the price of a kilogramme of Nile Perch had increased to between sh4,000â€“sh5,000 from between sh800â€“sh1,000 about six-years-ago.
Ndawula explained that the decrease in fish landings was due to the substantial increase in the fishing pressure. â€œThe number of fishers increased from 129,305 in the year 2000 to 196,426 in 2006, which translates into a 52% increase.â€
Ndawula was speaking during a trade and environment dialogue focusing on the fisheries sector organised by Environmental Alert at Hotel Africana in Kampala on Friday.
Fishing crafts registered a 63% increase from 42,493 to 69,160, fishing crafts with outboard engines leaped by 211% from 4,108 to 12,000, total gillnets rose from 650,653 to 1.2 million (88%).
Total longline hooks increased by 61% from 3 million to 9 million.
The decline, Ndawula said, had forced desperate fishermen to catch immature fish.
He added that 23% of fish processed in local industries were immature. Uganda has over 20 fish factories exporting over 30,000 tonnes of fish worth $150m annually.