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There is still plenty of Nile Perch â€" Nyeko

By Vision Reporter

Added 20th March 2005 03:00 AM

THERE has been a growing concern that the Nile Perch in Lake Kyoga is getting depleted. However, Dick Nyeko, the commissioner for fisheries, believes there is still plenty of Nile Perch in the lake.

THERE has been a growing concern that the Nile Perch in Lake Kyoga is getting depleted. However, Dick Nyeko, the commissioner for fisheries, believes there is still plenty of Nile Perch in the lake.

By William Balikuddembe

THERE has been a growing concern that the Nile Perch in Lake Kyoga is getting depleted. However, Dick Nyeko, the commissioner for fisheries, believes there is still plenty of Nile Perch in the lake.

In 2002, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, which share Lake Victoria at a ratio of 43%, 6% and 51% respectively, started enforcing a regulation that allows fishing of only the Nile Perch slot size of 50-85cm. This was said to be the best size to catch if fishing was to be sustainable.

Now, some researchers and business people fear this size is getting finished. “There are no big fish any more. We are seeing an extraordinary exploitation backed by high prices because the resource is going down,” says Phillip Borel De Bitche, managing director, Greenfield Uganda Ltd, an Entebbe-based fish processing company. He was on January 31, addressing a team from the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LVFO).

The team included commissioners and directors of fisheries management and research institutions in the three East African countries. “The sizes are down. We have to do research and see whether fish are maturing at a smaller size now,” Prof Phillip Bwathondi, the director general of Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute said. “Research reveals that there are too many boats in Lake Victoria.

Fishing has increased by three-fold, but our fishing fleet technology is still limited. There is widespread use of man power,” Nyeko says. He adds that Nile Perch lays eggs, which are fertilised in open waters. And the bigger the fish becomes, the deeper in the waters they swim. This means deep in the lake, there is big number of Nile Perch.

A Nile Perch spawns 11 million eggs in a single spawn and it can have more than six spawns a year. “In the rule of population dynamics, a predator can never lead to the extinction of a prey unless there is a third factor,” Nyeko says.

He added that when catching a given prey becomes laborious, the predator looks for an alternative and this gives the threatened prey chance to regenerate. “Some people are peddling the erroneous research findings. In September 2002, they rated Uganda to have zero Nile Perch stocks. What are we fishing now?” he asked.

“To make a decision, you need a reliable data. We have developed procedures to generate estimates with the support of the European Union so that we don’t say there is no Nile Perch when there is plenty, like we did in 2002.” In 2002, Uganda earned over $87m, $89m in 2003 and $100m in 2004 from fish exports.

Nyeko says if we catch only the regulated size, there will always be a lot of Nile Perch in the lake. Uganda could earn over $350m from exports. We should just be sure nobody catches immature fish. When the Nile Perch is 800g, it takes six to eight months for it to double that weight. “Current figures show that the lake could have stocks in excess of 1.5 million tonnes. The three East African countries are taking out less than 300,000 tonnes,” he said.

In Uganda, the National Fisheries Authority is in the pipeline; there is a strategic fisheries plan for 15 years and the Beach Management Units (BMUs) are taking shape. BMUs empower local people to ensure that the fisheries resource are well managed and protected. LVFO, which is an institution of the EA community, is also working for sustainable fisheries in the lake.

There is still plenty of Nile Perch – Nyeko

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