'Boutique' fish farms help combat over-fishing

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Researchers in Uganda and Jerusalem have come up with a unique way to feed people in the small villages and combat over-fishing around Lake Victoria.

The scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Makerere University in Kampala, have established 'boutique' fish farms in small villages around the Lake's shore in Uganda.

Five years ago, Professor Berta Levavi-Sivan in collaboration with Dr. Justus Rutaisire Faculty used techniques developed to spawn Israeli carp to spawn several species of African carp and cultivate them in fish farms around Lake Victoria in Uganda.

Then last year funded by the US Agency for International Development, the researchers began to establish ponds, stocked with the fish from the fish farms, in the villages around the shore of Lake. With time, the project has now developed to the extent that there are now four large fish farms which produce enough ‘fingerlings’ to populate 14 small village ponds and feed their population.

Up until fifty years ago, local fisherman fished carp and perciform carp from the lake as food for their families. The introduction of the Nile perch to increase local fisheries drastically decreased the number of native fish as the perch is a voracious predator.

The Nile perch has become the principle export of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania but the resulting decrease in the smaller prey fish of the perch has meant that the local populations of fishermen have been deprived of their only source of protein.

In addition, the fishermen are unable to fish the Nile perch for themselves as they are found in the middle of the lake where different fishing techniques and larger fishing boats are needed to reach them.

The Project leaders hope that eventually every village around the shores of the Lake will have its own 'boutique' fish farm and that the project will be expanded to include other countries in Africa.

Ironically, there is a twist to the story in that with the decrease in the number of smaller fish in the Lake, the Nile Perch now have nothing to eat and their numbers are becoming depleted.

To remedy this problem, Prof. Levavi-Sivan and Dr. Justus Rutaisire are beginning a new project funded by the World Bank to find ways to cultivate the Nile perch in aquaculture. This will hopefully boost Uganda's fish export industry.