As a growing human population chases a finite amount of fish in Lake Victoria, aquaculture provides an opportunity to bolster fish production in the region. Since 2000, aquaculture in small ponds around the lake has grown exponentially in Uganda and Kenya. Yet, aquaculture is relatively nascent in East Africa, and a sustainable, equitable, and competitive production system has not emerged.
Entrepreneurs have recently started putting metal or PVC fish cages directly into the lake. These cages house Nile tilapia, a cultural staple. Tilapia are uniquely important because, unlike Nile perch or mukene which are largely exported or turned into fish meal, Nile tilapia is served locally and contributes directly to nutrition.
As cages proliferate in the lake, the risk of negative environmental and social impacts grows. Studies of cage aquaculture in other regions indicate crowding, disease, pollution, and habitat damage are some of the potential downsides. But we also know the lake’s wild fish populations may not be able to supply the region with adequate protein in the future. The question is whether cage aquaculture can be a viable and sustainable solution to this shortage, if it is well planned and managed. Local cage farmers see cage aquaculture as the key to the future economy of their region, but they also see a large risk to their investment if proper management is not enforced.
Secure Fisheries is partnering with scientists in East Africa and the US to understand the potential pros and cons of cage aquaculture in Lake Victoria, and to provide a way forward that will encourage responsible development.