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14 March 2023 Cage farming in the environmental mix of Lake Victoria: An analysis of its status, potential environmental and ecological effects, and a call for sustainability
Kobingi Nyakeya, Frank O. Masese, Zipporah Gichana, Jane M. Nyamora, Albert Getabu, James Onchieku, Cyprian Odoli, Robert Nyakwama
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Abstract

Lake Victoria is the second largest freshwater lake in the world that was once a biodiversity hotspot hosting over 500 endemic haplochromine cichlids that were later decimated by exotic introductions and anthropogenically driven environmental and ecological changes. The environmental and ecological changes in the lake over the years have been attributed to overfishing, eutrophication, introduction of exotic species, pollution and possibly climate change. The lake's capture fishery, which is the main economic activity directly and indirectly supporting over 40 million people, has continued to decline after experiencing a boom between the 1970s and 1990s following the introduction of Nile Perch (Lates niloticus) and Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). In order to augment capture fisheries from the lake, cage culture was introduced in 2005, but its sustainability and influence on the ecology of the lake are not well understood. In this review, we examine the genesis of degradation of Lake Victoria and assess the role of cage culture as both a solution to the current situation and a cause for concern for the ecology of the lake. To compile this review, we utilized data in the grey and published literature. Studies show that the degradation of the lake can be traced back to the 1930s when the trophic status and ecology of the lake started showing signs of anthropogenic influence. The Nile Perch was introduced in early 1960s to replenish the fishery but its ecological impacts were felt in 1970s and 1980s when the native haplochromine species started to disappear from catches. Progressively, the ecological changes and management concerns in the lake have become a complex mix of exotic species introductions, eutrophication, and overfishing. In this mix of persistent ecological changes, the once thriving capture fisheries revolving around the two exotic species (L. niloticus and O. niloticus) have significantly declined threatening the livelihoods of millions of people directly and indirectly involved in the fisheries. These declines necessitated the introduction of cage culture in 2005 to fill the increasing demand for fish from the lake. Ever since, cage numbers have increased tremendously (>6 000 by 2020) and is now operated by over 60 different firms which are owned either individually or by groups. Over 70% of the cages have been installed in shallow areas within the Winam Gulf which goes against the guidelines on cage installation and operation; regulations on cage farming were introduced after the activity had gained momentum in the lake. Limnological data in areas of the lake that have been stocked with cages has shown evidence of negative effects on water quality. This decline in water quality can be attributed to remnant feeds used in cages, of which 50% are the sinking types, and wastes from fish excretion and egestion. Although data are limited, the potential influence of cage farming on the already altered ecology and environment of Lake Victoria needs to be recognized and investigated. This study recommends studies targeting operations of cages in the lake, including a comprehensive environmental audit to inform their sustainability and relevant policy.

Kobingi Nyakeya, Frank O. Masese, Zipporah Gichana, Jane M. Nyamora, Albert Getabu, James Onchieku, Cyprian Odoli, and Robert Nyakwama "Cage farming in the environmental mix of Lake Victoria: An analysis of its status, potential environmental and ecological effects, and a call for sustainability," Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management 25(4), 37-52, (14 March 2023). https://doi.org/10.14321/aehm.025.04.37
Published: 14 March 2023
KEYWORDS
aquaculture
capture fisheries
Eutrophication
fisheries management
water pollution
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