Socio-Ecological Research

Social Research on FisheriesSecure Fisheries is leading a four-year, interdisciplinary study of the ecology and economy of Lake Victoria. We aim to understand how food and economic security provided by the lake’s fisheries will change in response to a growing human population and cage aquaculture.

An Interdisciplinary Challenge

Lake Victoria is emblematic of a coupled natural and human system in which the environment affects humans and humans affect the environment. For example, lake pollution levels affect fish populations, fish feed humans, a growing human population develops cage aquaculture, and more cages mean more pollution. An interdisciplinary scientific approach is therefore needed to disentangle the complexities that shape the lake.

Cage Aquaculture

Our Research Approach

Biological and environmental data collection – through gillnet, trawl, and acoustic surveys of the lake – will tell us about the lake’s biodiversity, abundance of fish, and pollution levels. This effort is coordinated and implemented by our partners at the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization, the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute of Uganda, the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute in Kisumu, and the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute in Mwanza.

As fisheries change in Lake Victoria, the human communities that depend on them must also adapt. Fishing communities are quickly adopting aquaculture as an alternative to wild fisheries. How will this affect the price for fish, the quality of fish, and the role of women in the fisheries supply chain? Our partners at the Korbel School of International Studies (University of Denver) are tackling these questions by collecting over a thousand interviews with fishers from villages around the lake.

Integrating sociological data with ecological data is a challenge. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) combine creative flexibility and analytical power to visualize how human and natural systems overlap and interact. Our partners at Salisbury University have developed a GIS database for Lake Victoria that is freely available. If you are a GIS user, you can find a suite of datasets for your own work here.

Finally, our goal is to understand how the fish and human populations around Lake Victoria will change in the future. Our partners at the University of Boston are developing a Multiscale Integrated Model of Ecosystem Services (MIMES) to help us predict how fish in Lake Victoria will respond to growing aquaculture in the lake, and whether the fisheries will be more or less capable of ensuring food and economic security in the future.