FAO Home>Fisheries & Aquaculture
FAO of the UN
The designations employed and the presentation of material in the map(s) are for illustration only and do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal or constitutional status of any country, territory or sea area, or concerning the delimitation of frontiers or boundaries.

Part I Overview and main indicators

  1. Country brief
  2. General geographic and economic indicators
  3. FAO Fisheries statistics

Part II Narrative (2014)

  1. Production sector
    • Inland sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
      • Fishing communities
    • Aquaculture sub-sector
    • Recreational sub-sector
  2. Post-harvest sector
    • Fish utilization
    • Fish markets
  3. Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector
    • Role of fisheries in the national economy
    • Trade
    • Food security
    • Employment
    • Rural development
  4. Trends, issues and development
    • Constraints and opportunities
    • Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies
    • Research, education and training
      • Research
      • Education and training
  5. Institutional framework
  6. Legal framework
  7. Annexes
  8. References

Additional information

  1. FAO Thematic data bases
  2. Publications
  3. Meetings & News archive

Part I Overview and main indicators

Part I of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile is compiled using the most up-to-date information available from the FAO Country briefs and Statistics programmes at the time of publication. The Country Brief and the FAO Fisheries Statistics provided in Part I may, however, have been prepared at different times, which would explain any inconsistencies.

Country briefPrepared: October 2015

The water bodies of Ethiopia represent 7 334 km2 of major lakes and reservoirs, 275 km2 of small water bodies and 7 185 km of rivers. The Blue Nile and Omo are the major rivers.

Total production has been continuously increasing since 2007 to reach almost 29 000 tonnes in 2012. Exports were valued at USD 424 000 and imports at USD 1.6 million in 2011. Annual per capita fish consumption is one of the lowest globally (200-250g) and represents only a small portion of the overall protein supply (0.1 percent in 2010).

Fishing is predominantly artisanal. In 2014 nearly 45 000 fishers were employed in the primary sector with 30 percent employed fulltime, in addition to nearly 700 people engaged in aquaculture.

Despite favourable conditions, aquaculture has not taken off in Ethiopia, apart from some subsistence fish farming in small fish ponds covering a few hundred hectares integrated with horticulture and livestock production. Annual aquaculture production in 2012 was 38 tonnes, consisting mainly of tilapias (33 tonnes) and carps (5 tonnes). The National strategy for aquaculture development includes an incentive package which is attracting local and foreign investors. Consequently, the development of fish farming in Ethiopia, where the population frequently faces a deficit in animal proteins, is promising.

Water bodies located in the Rift Valley show signs of overexploitation whilst those located in remote areas with poor infrastructure, and which make up the majority of rivers, lakes and reservoirs, remain underutilised.

The sector is also constrained by weak institutional capacity, poorly organized fishermen’s associations, the lack of a reliable data collection system, the remoteness of fishing areas, the lack of basic infrastructure and equipment, the degradation of natural resources and the limited funds to implement the country’s strategies, plans and legislations.

In 1994, Ethiopia signed the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea but has not ratified it yet.
General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 – Ethiopia -General Geographic and Economic Data


Marine water area

(including the EEZ )

Nil -
Shelf Area Nil -
Length of continental coastline Nil -
GPP at purchaser’s value (2014) USD 54.8 billion


GDP per capita (2014) USD 568 data.worldbank.org
Agricultural value added (2014) USD 21.4 billion data.worldbank.org
Fisheries GDP (2010)

0.02% of GDP(1)

=USD 5 990 thousand(2)

(1)Mwanja, W. W., et al (2011) FAO Sub-regional Office for Eastern Africa, Fisheries and Aquaculture in Eastern Africa, p.5.

(2) data.worldbank.org

Key statistics

Country area1 104 300km2FAOSTAT. Expert sources from FAO (including other divisions), 2013
Land area1 000 000km2FAOSTAT. Expert sources from FAO (including other divisions), 2013
Inland water area104 300km2Computed. Calculated, 2013
Population - Est. & Proj.97.436millionsFAOSTAT. Official data, 2018
GDP (current US$)80 561millionsWorld Bank. 2017
GDP per capita (current US$)767.56US$World Bank. 2017
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing, value added34.12% of GDPWorld Bank. 2017

Source: FAO Country Profile

FAO Fisheries statisticsThe tables and graphs in this section are based on statistics prepared by the FAO Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit and disseminated in 2015.

Table 2 – Ethiopia – Fisheries statistics

      1980 1990 2000 2010 2011 2012 2013
PRODUCTION (thousand tonnes) 3.5 5.0 15.7 18.1 24.1 29.0 38.4
    Inland 3.1 3.8 15.7 18.1 24.1 29.0 38.4
    Marine 0.4 1.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
  Aquaculture 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
    Inland 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
    Marine 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
  Capture 3.5 4.9 15.7 18.1 24.0 29.0 38.4
    Inland 3.1 3.8 15.7 18.1 24.0 29.0 38.4
    Marine 0.4 1.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
TRADE (USD million)              
  Import 0.0 0.0 0.1 1.2 1.6 2.1 3.8
  Export 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.4 0.4 0.5 0.4
EMPLOYMENT (thousands) 23.5 23.3
  Aquaculture           0.8 0.6
  Capture 22.7 22.7
    Inland 22.7 22.7
FLEET(thousands boats) ... ...
  Fish food supply (thousand tonnes in live weight equivalent) 0.0 0.0 15.8 16.8 23    
  Per Capita Supply (kilograms) 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.2 0.3    
  Fish Proteins (grams per capita per day) 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.1    
  Fish/Animal Proteins (%) 0.0 0.0 1.4 0.7 1.0    
  Fish/Total Proteins (%) 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.1    
Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics              
1) Excluding aquatic plants              
2) Due to roundings total may not sum up              

Figure 1 — Ethiopia — Total fishery production
Figure 1 — Ethiopia — Total fishery production

Figure 2 — Ethiopia — Production of aquatic plants
Figure 2 — Ethiopia — Production of aquatic plants

Figure 3 — Ethiopia — Capture production
Figure 3 — Ethiopia — Capture production

Figure 4 — Ethiopia — Major species groups in capture production
Figure 4 — Ethiopia — Major species groups in capture production

Figure 5 — Ethiopia — Composition of capture production – 2013
Figure 5 — Ethiopia — Composition of capture production – 2013

Figure 6 — Ethiopia — Aquaculture production
Figure 6 — Ethiopia — Aquaculture production

Figure 7 — Ethiopia —Major species groups in aquaculture production
Figure 7 — Ethiopia —Major species groups in aquaculture production

Figure 8 — Ethiopia — Import and export value of fish and fishery products
Figure 8 — Ethiopia — Import and export value of fish and fishery products

Figure 9 — Ethiopia – Major species groups in import
Figure 9 — Ethiopia – Major species groups in import

Figure 10 — Ethiopia – Major species groups in export
Figure 10 — Ethiopia – Major species groups in export

Figure 11 — Ethiopia — Per capita supply of fish and fishery products
Figure 11 — Ethiopia — Per capita supply of fish and fishery products

Figure 12 — Ethiopia — Composition of total fish food supply - 2011
Figure 12 — Ethiopia — Composition of total fish food supply - 2011

Updated 2014Part II Narrative

Part II of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile provides supplementary information that is based on national and other sources and that is valid at the time of compilation (see update year above). References to these sources are provided as far as possible.

Production sectorWith a total surface area of 1 127 127 square kilometers and an estimated 2014 population of 94.10 million, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, which is Africa’s largest landlocked country and second most populous nation, is home to a fisheries sector whose principal distinguishing characteristics are its low level of exploitation and the inadequacy of vital infrastructure. Inland waters cover a total surface area of 8 800 km2, comprising about 7 400 km2 of major lakes and reservoirs , some 7 000 km of rivers and about 275 km2 of minor aquatic habitats, on all of which subsistence and artisanal fisheries are predominantly undertaken.

Given that the country has no marine coastline its fisheries are totally inland and are conducted in its numerous rivers, lakes and reservoirs.

Ethiopia’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture which accounts for 49 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and more than 80 percent of total employment. The total employment generated by fisheries is about 13 200 while up to 40 000 livelihoods are positively impacted upon by the sector.

The country has an estimated fish production potential of 51 481 tonnes. However, national per capita fish consumption is very low, being a mere 0.20 kg. Whereas beef is the dominant source of animal protein all over the country, fresh fish is consumed mainly in areas surrounding the Great Rift Valley, south of Addis Ababa, which contains a system of small- to medium-sized lakes.

Lake Tana, nestling at an altitude of 1 830 m, with a mean depth of 8.0 m, surface area of 3 500 km2 and a shoreline of about 385 km, is the largest water body in the country. And with a potential annual fish yield of 24 900 tonnes, it is the leading water in fish production, accounting for at least 25 percent of the country’s water resource.

Insufficient institutional and management capacity, limited resource allocation and investment, poor policy and regulatory framework, and insufficient value chain and fish marketing infrastructure, are some of the cross-sectoral challenges affecting fisheries in Ethiopia. At the same time opportunities exist to increase the global social, health and economic value for fish; to increase demand for fish and fishery products; and to grow intra-regional trade, abound.

Despite favourable physical and hydrographic conditions (suitable geographic relief, rich soil quality, good mean annual rainfall, and sufficient freshwater availability), aquaculture production is negligible in Ethiopia. And, in a similar vein, recreational fishing is yet to be adopted as an important form of leisure by the people.Inland sub-sectorCatch profileA high diversity of freshwater fish species is found in Ethiopian waters where at least a hundred local species have been identified. However, only a few of those species – Tilapia, Lates, Barbus, Bagrus, Clarias, and Labeo – form the bulk of the catch, out of which tilapia is the major contributor, yielding about 80 percent of the production. Though preferred by consumers but increasingly becoming scarce, a considerable amount of Nile perch is caught in large rivers as well as in Lakes Chamo and Abaya. African catfish, Bagrus, and the barbs constitute the next harvest group, in terms of scope and magnitude.

A total of 180 different species of fish (both indigenous and exotic) inhabit the waters. Significant catch variations are obtained, in terms of quantity and species type, in accordance with seasonal variations which are influenced by the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).
Landing sitesThough fishing is carried out in all Ethiopian waters, the bulk of the catch originates from the following four lakes whose percentage contribution to national fish production is given below:

Table 3 – Ethiopia - Catch

Tana 25%
Ziway and Langano 19%
Chamo 18%
Abaya 12%

The commercial inland capture fishery uses many landing sites, with most of the catch being landed on the outlet of Bahr Dar on Lake Tana.

Table 4 shows the important landing sites with relevant data.

Table 4 - Ethiopia – Commercially important landing sites

Water body Main landing site



Potential (tonne/year)
Tana Bahr Dar 3 500 10 000
Lugo Lugo 25 400
Koka Reservoir Koka 255 700
Ziway Ziway 434 2 941
Langano Oittu 230 240
Awassa Awassa 91 611
Abaya Arba Minch 1 070 600
Chamo Arba Minch 350 4 500
Total   5 955 19 992

Source: Adapted from FAO (2003) Information on Fisheries Management in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

Ziway, Langano, Awassa, Chamo and Abaya are the most fished lakes while Fincha and Koka, which are the two largest reservoirs, are also exploited for fishing. Further, River Baro near Gambela in western Ethiopia and River Omo in the south, close to the border with Kenya, are two other water bodies where major riverine fishing activities are undertaken. Basic fishing jetties are available at Lakes Ziway, Abaya, and Tana/ Bahr Dahr.
Fishing practices/systemsIn Ethiopia’s inland capture fishery, fishers make use of a variety of gear, including traditional traps and spear, gillnets, beach seine, hooks and longline. The craft in use are, generally, motorized or unmotorized steel or wooden boats, reed or raft vessels.

Most fishing vessels are made of papyrus or scirpus and are unmotorized. In some of the Rift Valley lakes, particularly, canoes have been gradually replaced by wooden punts with oars (4 m x 1.7 m x 0.55 m) while most fishers use one-man rafts. Though these vessels have very limited carrying capacity, they provide to the fisher the desired access to the entire surface area of the lake at an affordable cost. Also, outboard and inboard motorized vessels which enable fishers to operate throughout the water are available, most especially on Lake Tana, while wooden rowing boats are largely in use on Lake Awassa.

The predominant gear employed in the Ethiopian capture fishery is the gillnet, with the largest mesh sizes of up to 32 cm employed on Lakes Abaya and Chamo where bigger fish are caught. Beach seines are popular, particularly on Lake Langano, and occasionally on Lake Ziway during religious fasting. These beach seines measure between 150 m and 200 m long. In addition, traditional fishers harvest with castnets on Lake Tana while on Lake Chamo longlines and hook and lines are employed to catch Nile perch.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church / Development and Inter-Church Aid Department (EOC /DICAD) project has provided some fishing gear repair and maintenance facilities which have organized a net manufacturing unit, with training for women, on Lake Tana.
Main resourcesEthiopia’s waters are classified into four systems, viz: lakes, reservoirs, rivers and small water bodies. Diverse aquatic life, ranging from microscopic flora and fauna, to the giant African Hippopotamus, inhabits the lakes and rivers. The rich natural ichthyofauna includes more than 100 fish species. Sizeable fishery resources originate from these waters. It was considered that 56 percent of the annual production potential is harvested.

Ethiopia’s capture fishery locations consist of:
  • The Great Rift Valley lakes: Chamo, Abaya, Ziway, and the northern part of Lake Turkana
  • Lake Tana, which is the largest lake in the country
  • Numerous rivers, and
  • Minor water bodies, including reservoirs and natural impoundments.
Below are various tables showing the principal characteristics of the major water bodies, with their annual fish potential yields.

Table 5 - Ethiopia – Summary of water bodies and their fisheries

Waterbody typeExtentFishery potential (tonne / year)
Major lakes6 477 km223 342
Major reservoirs and dams857 km24 399
Small water bodies275 km21 952
Rivers7 185 km21 788
Total 51 481
Source: Adapted from FAO (2003) Information on Fisheries Management in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

Table 6 – Ethiopia – Major lakes




Fishery potential


Tana3 50010 000
Ardibo and Lugo51400
Ziway4342 941
Abijata2052 000
Shalla2501 300
Abaya1 070600
Chamo5514 500
Turkana (from 1.3% of total area94750
Subtotal6 47723 342
Source: Adapted from, FAO (2003) Information on Fisheries Management in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Table 7 – Ethiopia – Major reservoirs and dams

Reservoir or damArea (km2)Fisherypotential (tonne/year)
Koka2551 194
Fincha –Amerti2501 330
Melka Wakena82434
Aba Samuel44234
Alwero dam74394
Small Abya1266
Subtotal8574 399
Source: Adapted from, FAO (2003) Information on Fisheries Management in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

Table 8 – Ethiopia – Small waterbodies




Fishery potential (tonne/year)
Southern region (Cheleloka Swamp)100423

Gambella (swamps, and

flood plains)




1 000

Subtotal2751 952
Source: Adapted from, FAO (2003) Information on Fisheries Management in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

Table 9 – Ethiopia – Major rivers


Total length


River length within Ethiopia


Fishery potential

(tonne / year)

Abay1 4508002 133
Wabi Shebele1 1301 0003 333
Awash1 2001 2004 800
Omo7607601 925
Tokeze6086081 232
Subtotal5 9435 78515 255


small rivers

 1 4006 533
Total rivers 7 18521 788
Source: Adapted from, FAO (2003) Information on Fisheries Management in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
Management applied to main fisheriesRegulatory measures employed in managing Ethiopian inland water resources are aimed at optimal exploitation of the fishery, though compliance and enforcement are far from being satisfactory. The artisanal fishery is undeveloped as a result of low economic performance, ineffective administration set-up and lack of expertise.

The principal legal instrument for the management of fisheries in Ethiopia is Proclamation No. 315/2003 Fisheries Development and Utilization Proclamation. The law imposes regulations against fishing malpractices and gives guidelines on the recovery of fish stocks. At the federal level, the fishery management legislation, Proclamation No. 315/2003, provides broad guidelines relating to resource conservation, food safety, and aquaculture. It also lays strong emphasis on fishing regulation, fishing permits and the need for fishery inspection, just as it reflects the necessity for fish products to conform to prescribed standards.

Following on the heels of the federal Fishery Management Proclamation, the regional administrations are expected to use the enactment as a framework to formulate their own fishery management proclamations. So far, only Amhara Region in 2011, and Oromia Region in 2012, have developed their respective Proclamations which contain similar provisions as the federal policy but with additional measures relating to the creation of employment opportunities in fishing communities, as well as insistence that fishery research findings should be made available to the fishing communities.

A fishery co-management approach was developed in 2013 for most lakes and reservoirs with the following measures:
  • Licensing a certain number of fishers and fishing gear according to biological limits;
  • Closed season (June – July) to prevent fishing during one of the tilapia breeding seasons;
  • Mesh size limitation of 10 cm stretched mesh for gillnets and 8 cm for beach seine;
  • Progressive reduction in number of beach seines by 50 percent in two years, leading to total eradication;
  • Prevention of beach seining in certain areas by placing obstacles in near shore areas and planting of inshore vegetation;
  • Closed areas to prevent fishing in designated areas where fish are known to breed.
  • In general, however, the entire fisheries of Ethiopia are in need of stringent resource monitoring.

In a bid to achieve stock improvement, non-indigenous fish species such as common carp (Cyprinus carpio), crucian carp (Carassius carassius) and Tilapia zilli were introduced into Ethiopian lakes as from 19361.

The fisheries sector has the following specific objectives:
  • Increase fish consumption and the nutritional status of the population, particularly in rural areas;
  • Improve employment and income opportunities and, hence, the living conditions of fishery communities;
  • Improve post-harvest activities to cut losses and improve fish quality;
  • Supply industries and export markets with sufficient quantities of good quality fish;
  • Increase fisheries contribution to national income, including export earnings;
  • Improve complementarities and efficiency in fish farming systems through integration with other agricultural activities; and
  • Ensure sustainable use of fish stock and the aquatic environment.

Fishing communitiesFishers are largely organized into cooperatives under a new status which has been drafted through the Cooperative Promotion and Agricultural Development Department (CPAD) of the Ministry of Agriculture. However, together with registered fishers, there is a large number of informal operators in the sector who work mostly on a part-time basis.
Aquaculture sub-sectorTo date, very minimal development has been made in the field of fish farming in Ethiopia. However the Government, with the support of FAO, has enacted the National Aquaculture Development Strategy (2009) in respect of which it currently encourages commercial aquaculture development through the provision of investment incentives.

The limited aquaculture practice has been conducted with tilapia and African catfish. Farming of coldwater species could be achieved on about 11 percent of Ethiopia’s surface area, on the high central Plateau above 2 500 m. A wide array of fish, ranging from coldwater to warmwater species, can also be farmed in the central Highlands which present favourable temperature characteristics. Also, the lowlands representing about 33 percent of total area could be suitable for the cultivation of tilapia and other warmwater species, though those areas often suffer long spells of drought and have sandy soil which is not particularly suited for earthen pond construction; in which case water retention mechanisms such as the use of high density polyethylene (HDPE) materials could be employed.

Oreochromis niloticus, Sarotherodon gallileus, Heterotis niloticus, Clarias lazera and Clarias mossambicus are some of the local species with good breeding potential. The Sebeta Fish Culture Station (SFCS), built in 1975, engages in stock enhancement operations. The station has 18 ponds covering a total area of two hectares and has a research, training and extension units as well as a hatchery. With stocks recruited from natural water bodies, it has maintained and propagated brood stocks of common carp (Cyprinus carpio), crucian carp (Carassius carassius), Tilapia zilli and Oreochromis niloticus, as well as goldfish. Fingerlings produced by the station are introduced into natural lakes and newly-created water bodies such as reservoirs, dams and ponds.

Apart from the SFCS ponds, a few other ponds which are owned by individuals, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and some fish farmers’ associations exist throughout the country, mainly for family use or demonstration purposes only. Also under the supervision of the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organization (EWCO) sustainable crocodile farming activities are carried out at Arba Minch. Both the National Strategy and Development Plan for Aquaculture contain blueprints for improvement of the subsector.

Some of the major constraints to the development of commercial aquaculture in Ethiopia are:
  • Lack of fish farming tradition;
  • Competition from capture fisheries;
  • Poor purchasing power of the citizens;
  • Poor human and institutional capacity;
  • Lack of training and extension support.
If these factors are sufficiently addressed and significant technical support in the areas of provision of fingerlings, demonstration and extension services is available, there will be a necessary turning-point in aquaculture development.
Recreational sub-sectorRecreational fishing is not yet an important subsector despite the fact that as from 1936 non-indigenous fish species were introduced in Ethiopian waters for this purpose. Between 1973 and 1974, rainbow trout was introduced into Rivers Sibilo, Chacha, Beressa and Mugar, as well as into Lake Wonchi. The management of the national parks, which host the trout populations, is the responsibility of the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organization (EWCO).

Some measure of fishing activity is carried out in four lakes in the national parks of the Rift Valley. Sport fishing is authorized in the Nechisar Park, bordering mostly the eastern side of Lake Chamo and a small part of the southern end of Lake Apaya. However, fishing is forbidden in the bird sanctuary of Shala-Abijata Lakes Park. In Bale Mountains, EWCO supervises the trout-based recreational fishing.
Post-harvest sectorFish utilizationEthiopian consumers have preference for whole fresh fish. As a result, the bulk of the fish harvest from the lakes is sold fresh. However, frozen filets are increasingly being marketed in lakeside towns as well as in the capital city, Addis Ababa.

Although most fish traders do not have access to basic cold chains with ice and insulated containers, a few basic fish handling and preservation institutions which are equipped with electricity and freshwater supplies are available in the Ethiopian fisheries. The main facilities are the chill store and ice at Ziway, freezing and cold store at Arba Minch, and a cold store at Bahir Darh area on Lake Tana. As a result of the general shortage of basic cold chains, fresh fish storage usually lasts only up to two days. Consequently, fish marketers concentrate their trade during religious fasting periods when there is more demand.

Smoking is not a traditional method of fish utilization in Ethiopia, and drying is carried out only on some remote fishing locations. “Kuanta”, which is a dried fish product, is largely available around Arba Minch. The product is obtained by filleting the fish, cutting them into large strips and hanging them up on strings to dry for two to three days, after which they are packed in sacks for storage on the floor for up to a month without substantial quality deterioration. But while kuanta is not popular further north of the country, seasonal processing takes place in the area of Lake Ziway during religious fasting periods.

Drying is increasingly becoming a method which is frequently used to preserve excess catches, with dried fish being more available in large consumption centres such as Addis Ababa, as well as being targeted at the expatriate market.

And in addition to the traditional fish preservation methods, the Ethiopian Meat Concentrates, a subsidiary of the government-owned Ethiopian Meat Corporation (EMC) has carried out fish canning, with a varied degree of success.

Whereas fresh fish handling hardly incurs post-harvest losses during religious fasting periods when demand is high and transactions rarely exceed 24 hours, at normal times, traders face major storage problems as a result of shortage of basic cold chains, thus resulting in significant losses. Because kuanta is generally prepared in poor hygienic conditions and insufficiently dried and stored on bare ground, it often incurs significant quality degradation.
Fish marketsThe Ethiopian domestic fish market is small and consumption patterns are low. This trend is the result of three principal factors:
  • Most of the population is yet to integrate fish into their diet;
  • The seasonality of fish consumption because of religious influences. For example, Christians tend to resort to fish during Lent when they abstain from meat and dairy products;
  • The occasional short supply and relative high price of fish often renders it out of reach to the average potential consumer.
But even as the fish production potential is underexploited, projected demand currently exceeds supply four-fold. Below is the projected fish demand up to 2025.

Table 10 - Ethiopia – Projected fish demand

YearDemand (in tonnes)
200367 000
201595 000
2025118 000
Source: Janko, A.M., (2014) Zeway Fisheries Resources Research Center, Ethiopia. Fish Production, Consumption and Management in Ethiopia. Research Journal of Agric & Env. Management, Vol.3 (9), pp. 460-466, p. 463. Available online at www.apexjournal.org

Fish demand is higher in production areas because of consumption stimulation by regular supply of good quality product at an affordable price vis-à-vis the price of meat. Consumer demand for fish increases when supply is more regular on a year-round basis, shops are located closer to their homes, and fish prices are more affordable.
Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sectorRole of fisheries in the national economyEthiopia’s fishery sector contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is 0.02 percent. Sustainable fisheries management is crucial to food security, poverty alleviation and economic growth. Fisheries are thus acknowledged as an important strategy in the drive for poverty reduction. They help to promote greater economic development in Ethiopia. In 2010 Ethiopia realized about USD 14 000 000 from its capture fishery while a total of 40 000 livelihoods were positively impacted upon by the fishery sector in the same year.TradeThe Ethiopian cross-border fish trade is currently not properly documented. The country imports significant amounts of fish from neighbouring countries though some of these imports end up being exported to Sudan through the porous border with neighbouring South Sudan.

The per capita fish supply is around 200 g, significantly below the mean 2.6 kg per capita per year for the East African subregion. Fish plays a vital role in domestic trade as well as in import and export market.
Food securityThough there is a strong consumer preference for beef, fish is regarded as an important component of a nutritionally rich diet. However, fish consumption patterns vary according to availability. More fish is consumed in areas where the product is more available, such as in the vicinity of the Great Rift Valley lakes.

Fisheries are regarded as an important sector in the effort to increase animal protein consumption and achieve food security for the growing population. Two important national documents, the Plan for Accelerated and Sustainable Development to End Poverty (PASDEP) and the Rural Development Policy, highlight the importance of the sector to food and nutrition security.

National fish demand is somewhat seasonal, as religious observances exert strong influence on fish consumption patterns. During Lent, for example, Christians, especially of the Coptic Orthodox Church, who are required to refrain from eating meat, milk and eggs, resort to fish as a substitute. The domestic fish demand is significantly robust during two short periods of the year when the Orthodox Church encourages fish consumption. These periods are the fasting seasons in February and April, and two weeks in August, totaling about 80 days.

Large quantities of fish are consumed at periods of religious fasting in the cities, around major fish production areas such as the Great Rift Valley lakes, and major towns, particularly in Zeway, Arba Minch, Bahir Dar and the capital Addis Ababa.
EmploymentA considerable workforce is employed, both directly and indirectly, by Ethiopia’s capture fisheries which also help in sustaining local communities. Whereas 4 052 persons were employed directly by the sector in 2010, a total of 9 148 others benefited from indirect employment offered by the sector.Rural developmentThe rural areas of Ethiopia where substantial fishing takes place benefit from the economic activities of the fishers and their related operations. This is especially so around the Great Rift Valley and areas surrounding the lakes, reservoirs, rivers and other small water bodies with major fishing activities. In those areas, much more than in the urban and peri-urban centres, fisheries are increasingly recognized as an alternative means of addressing the problems of food security and poverty, consistently with the rural development objectives of the sector.

Employment opportunities, both primary and secondary, are enhanced with the availability of fishery resources in the rural areas. And while the national mean per capita fish consumption is only 200 g, the consumption in the rural production centres of Awassa, Sodo, Gambella close to River Boro, etcetera, is as much as 10 kg/capita/year. There is a national awareness that rural areas and the agricultural sector, which support more than 80 percent of the total population, are the basis for bringing about rapid and equitable economic growth and development in the country.
Trends, issues and developmentConstraints and opportunitiesLike for most of Africa, Ethiopia is riddled with poverty, economic stagnation and environmentally unsustainable practices, all of which pose serious constraints to fisheries development. However, ample opportunities exist for the sector to help reverse national development challenges by making a significant contribution to poverty alleviation, economic growth, better nutrition and ecological improvement.

Dual problems of food security and poverty are major and immediate challenges for Ethiopia where about 45 percent of the people live below the poverty line, with the level of impoverishment being worse in rural areas where 85 percent of the population live.

Factories, agriculture and sewage are the sources of major pollutants affecting Ethiopian water bodies and their fisheries. The extraction of minerals from Lake Abijata could have negative effect on fish stocks, just as the effluents from the tannery at Koka Reservoir and the textile industries at Awassa and Arba Minch can affect the fisheries. Also, the increasing rate of deforestation could result in increased drying up of water bodies and increase in water turbidity. Further, the dam on River Omo has negatively affected the anadromous fish which migrate from Lake Turkana to spawn in the river.

Inadequate legal and policy frameworks have largely given rise to poor fishery resource exploitation resulting, in some cases, in the overfishing of some important species, such as the Nile perch in Lake Chamo, and tilapia in Lakes Awassa and Ziway. Though there are fishery laws and regulations currently in place, these legislations are inadequately implemented.

The sector also suffers from limited human resource availability, with an acute shortage of trained personnel. This poses serious constraints on fishery management and technical and extension support services.

Public and private investment in fishery and aquaculture is low and the infrastructe inadequate. There is also an urgent need to invest in modern value chain-based fish processing and marketing infrastructure.

However, with a large population of some 94 million and fish production potential of some 51 000 tonnes, ample opportunities abound in the sector. Local fish demand can be greatly increased with a change in the people’s food habit, in favour of fish. Improvement in fishing techniques, technology transfer to fishers, training of fishery management personnel, attraction of financial capital to the industry, fish value chain improvement, and aquaculture, can all result to increased fish production, increased trade and overall economic development of the country.
Government and non-government sector policies and development strategiesThe Federal Fishery Management Proclamation articulates well-defined strategies that are aimed at the development of fisheries, with one of the stated objectives being “to prevent and control over-exploitation of the fisheries resources”. It emphasizes the regulatory measure of ‘command and control’ even as it highlights the duties of the fishery inspector. Ethiopia has a National Strategy as well as the Development Plan for Aquaculture, both of which address the promotion of fish farming though, currently, with minimal implementation.Research, education and trainingResearchThe principal responsibility for fishery research lies with the Ethiopian Institute for Agriculture Research (EIAR) which oversees centrally funded and facilitated research programmes in tandem with a number of fisheries research centres.

Fishery research is also undertaken at the Aquatic Biology Unit, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science of Addis Ababa University (AAU) as well as in both Alemaya Agricultural University and Debub University. The AAU’s Aquatic Biology Unit, which has collaboration with the University of Waterloo has established the Freshwater Fisheries Limnology Project (FFLP) from which information on the limnology, primary and secondary production of Lakes Awassa, Ziway, Langano and Shala may be obtained. Also, in collaboration with the Wageningen Agricultural University of the Netherlands, the AAU has interest in a research project on Lake Tana as well as on the study of the taxonomy of Lake Chamo and River Baro.

In addition, the Research Centre at the Water Technology Institute at Arba Minch undertakes limnology studies of Lakes Chamo and Abaya, just as Sebeta Fish Culture Centre offers training in aquaculture, too.
Education and trainingThe Department of Biology of the Addis Ababa University (AAU) conducts some fishery training and runs M.Sc. and Ph.D. programmes in aquatic biology with the support of Swedish universities. Some fishery study is also available at both Alemaya Agricultural University and Debub University.
Institutional frameworkThe responsible organ for fisheries management is the federal states with some oversight from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

A number of fisheries research stations are in place, centrally funded and with facilitated research programmes, under the umbrella of the Ethiopia Institute for Agriculture Research. The National Plan for Accelerating Sustainable Development to End Poverty (PASDEP) prioritizes fisheries. Also, both the National Strategy and the Development Plan for Aquaculture acknowledge the indispensability of the sector, though implementation has been a challenge.
Legal frameworkThe major legal instrument for the management of fisheries in Ethiopia is Proclamation No.315/2003, Fisheries Development and Utilization Proclamation, which tool has helped two regional governments with major aquatic habitats to produce their own proclamations for fisheries management within their respective jurisdictions.

Figure 13 – Ethiopia – Map of the region
Figure 13 – Ethiopia – Map of the region

Figure 14 – Ethiopia – Map
Figure 14 – Ethiopia – Map

FAO. 1995. Review of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector, Ethiopia. FAO Fisheries Circular No. 890, FIPP/ c890. www.fao.org/docrep/v6718e02.htm.
Janko, A.M. 2014. Fish Production, Consumption and Management in Ethiopia. Zeway Fisheries Resources Research Center, Ethiopia. Research Journal of Agric & Env. Management, Vol.3 (9), pp. 460-466. Available online at www.apexjournal.org.
Mwanja W. W., Signa W. and D. Eshete . 2011. FAO Sub-regional Office for Eastern Africa, Addis Ababa. Fisheries and Aquaculture in Eastern Africa.

Additional information

Meetings & News archive


Powered by FIGIS