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1. Purpose and justification

The Source Book for the Inland Fishery Resources of Africa (SIFRA) is a compendium, water body-by-water body, country-by-country, of information on physical characteristics, limnology and fisheries.

The overall objective is to promote inland fisheries management and development by providing comprehensive information on Africa's inland fisheries and fishery potential, in a uniform format, readily accessible to planners, policy makers and fishery workers.

At the national level SIFRA can serve as a basic reference for fishery workers and aquatic scientists on fisheries and limnology. With this baseline data in a simple format one can quickly discern where information is ample or lacking, in this way identifying and assessing needs for technical assistance for specific water bodies, or areas of a country.

More broadly, by taking a water body-by-water body approach, SIFRA illustrates the widespread importance of inland fisheries for economic, social and nutritional well-being. A major side benefit is to raise the awareness of planners and developers to the need for an ecological approach to the management and development of inland waters in order to conserve water resources for fisheries and aquaculture.

SIFRA has been designed to be useful at the regional level by taking into account shared water bodies and synthesizing information on them. Likewise, the same kinds of comparisons that are made at the national level can be made among countries to identify where needs are greatest and where cooperation on common problems is most likely to be successful.

2. Document organization

The Source Book, presented in three volumes, is subdivided into 53 country and associated island files. The countries and the distribution of inland waters in each volume are shown in Table 1 and Figure 1 of the Introduction. These divisions coincide well with the major river basins of Africa, shown in Figure 2.

Each country file is subdivided into seven sections:

  1. Geography and climate
  2. Hydrography
  3. Fishery production/potential
  4. State of the fishery
  5. Key bibliography
  6. Water bodies directory
  7. Bibliography

Under Section 6 in each country file the water bodies are presented in alphabetical order under four basic categories:

Inland water bodies are also divided into:

Standard formats and parameter headings were used for each water body category to simplify data retrieval.

Individual country files are stored for easy updating by word processing. This will facilitate expansion of the files as new environmental and fishery data are received or new water bodies (e.g., reservoirs) are created.

3. Reliability of the data

The FAO fishery statistics (FISHDAB, published each year in the “FAO Yearbook, Fishery Statistics, Catches and Landings”) were used as the main source in the table “FISH PRODUCTION AND PER CAPUT SUPPLY” in Section 3. Nominal catches from 1970 to 1987 were tabulated in each country file. These arise mainly from official national statistics, sometimes corrected by the FAO Fishery Statistics Service.

The figures for “Annual catch range” and “Potential annual yield” (Section 3) are based on specific water body fishery studies (as detailed in Section 6) and/or specific studies, all made by international experts. They were collected from published and unpublished field reports (FAO and other technical assistance organizations), from international publications, and from FAO colleagues' personal communications.

Sometimes the data from field observations are more reliable than the official data. However, as field observations were not available for all countries and water bodies, and as some estimates may vary from one author to another, they have been presented under the separate titles “Annual catch range” and “Potential annual yield”. The variety of sources used explains why there are differences (sometimes even a large gap) between the “annual catch range” and the “nominal catches” for the same year. (It also explains the inevitable variations in the spelling of local geographical names.)

By referring to the sources cited, the reader can delve into the reliability of the data.

Besides presenting data on the physical and chemical characteristics of African water bodies and basic fishery statistics, one of the objectives of this publication was to present estimates of potential yields for each water body and country to facilitate assessments of the degree of exploitation of each country's fishery resources. The earlier version of the Source Book contained potential yield estimates based on models similar to those of Henderson and Welcomme (1974) and Welcomme (1976, 1985). However, with new data acquired as a result of updating and expanding the country files, these models are now outdated. An activity is presently underway to generate new models from which updated potential yield estimates will be calculated. In the meantime, the only potential yield estimates that are given in this version of the Source Book are those which can be cited.

Table 2 of the Introduction summarizes the statistics for the inland fisheries of the specific African countries reported in each of the three Source books. Official inland catches in 1987 are compared to the inland catch range and inland potential catch range, the latter two being the result of the most reliable field studies available.

4. General bibliography

The following references present general interest for all studies concerning African freshwater ichthyology, limnology and fisheries.

Beadle, L.C., 1981 The inland waters of tropical Africa; an introduction to tropical limnology. London. Longman, 475 p. 2nd ed.

Burgis, M.J. & J.J. Symoens, 1987 African Wetlands and Shallow Water Bodies/Zones humides et lacs peu profonds d'Afrique: Directory/rèpertoire. ORSTOM, Coll. Travaux et Documents no. 211, Paris, 650 p.

Daget, J., J.P. Gosse & D.F.E. 1984 1985 1986 Thys van den Audenaerde, Check-list of the freshwater fishes of Africa; Catalogue des poissons d'eau douce d'Afrique (CLOFFA), MRAC Tervuren - ORSTOM, Paris ISNB Bruxelles. Vol.1 (1984), Vol.2 (1985), Vol.3 (1986).

Davies, B. & F. Gasse, 1988 African Wetlands and Shallow Water Bodies/Zones humides et lacs peu profonds d'Afrique: Bibliography/Bibliographie. ORSTOM, Coll. Travaux et Documents no. 211, Paris. 502 p.

Durand, J.R. & C. Lévêque, 1980 1981 Flore et faune aquatiques de l'Afrique sahélosoudanienne. ORSTOM, Paris, Coll.Doc.Tech. no.44 (Tome 1, 1980, 389 p.), no. 45 (Tome 2, 1981)

FAO FAO Yearbook, Fishery Statistics, Catches and Landings, FAO - Rome. (published every year)

Henderson, H.F. & R.L. Welcomme, 1974 The relationship of yield to morpho-edaphic index and number of fishermen in African inland fisheries. CIFA Occas. Pap. (1): 19 p.

Kapetsky, J.M., 1984 Coastal lagoon fisheries around the world: Some perspectives on fishery yields, and other comparative fishery characteristics. In: Management of Coastal Lagoon Fisheries, edited by Kapetsky, J.M. & G. Lasserre, Stud; Rev. GFCM, (61) Vol. 1: 97–140.

Kapetsky, J.M. & T. Petr (eds/rèv.), 1984 Status of African reservoir fisheries. Etat des pêcheries dans les rèservoirs d'Afrique. CIFA Tech.Pap./Doc. Tech. CPCA, (10):326 p.

Lèvêque, C., M.N. Bruton & G. Ssentongo (Eds), 1987 Biology and Ecology of African Freshwater Fishes. ORSTOM, Paris.

Marshall, B.E., 1984 Towards predicting ecology and fish yields in African reservoirs from preimpoundment physico-chemical data. Comment prèvoir l'ècologie des rèservoirs africains et leur rendement en poisson a partir de donnèes physico-chimiques rèunies avant endiguement. CIFA Tech. Pap./Doc.Tech.CPCA. (12):36 p.

Poll, M., 1957 Les genres des poissons d'eau douce de l'Afrique. Ann.Mus.Roy.Congo belge, 54, 191 p.

Welcomme, R.L., 1972 The inland waters of Africa. CIFA Tech. Pap. (1):117 p.

Welcomme, R.L., 1979a The inland fisheries of Africa. CIFA Occ. Pap. (7):77 p.

Welcomme, R.L., 1979b Fisheries ecology of floodplain rivers. Longman Ed., 317 p.

Welcomme, R.L., 1985 River fisheries. FAO Fish. Tech. Pap. (262):330 p.

Figure 1
BotswanaBOTBurkina FasoBKFChadCHD
Central African RepublicCAFCape VerdeCVIEgyptEGY
ComorosCOICôte d'IvoireIVCEthiopiaETH
CongoPRCEquatorial GuineaEQGLibyaLIB
ReunionREUSan Tome and PrincipeSTPWest SaharaWSH
SeychellesSEYSierra LeoneSIL  

Figure 1 and Table 1

Figure 2

(Welcomme, 1972)


Table 2b. 17 Countries reported in Book 2

 Catches 1987Consumption 1987 1Degree of Exploitation
CountryTotal marine
(t) 1
Inland aquacult. production
Inland as % of totalPopulation
Per caput supply of inland fish
Inland catch range
(t) 2
Inland potential catch range
(t) 2
Benin41 90331 97314764 3107.420 000–34 00028 000–33 000
Burkina Faso7 0006 964361007 3191.02 500–5 00015 878
Cameroon82 52919 8631372410 4431.920 000–50 00045 000–80 000
Capo Verde8 200000342   000
Côte d'Ivoire102 45327 3538472710 5112.636 50062 000
Equatorial Guinea4 0004000104111.0300–4001 000
Gabon20 9001 897391 1981.61 800–1 9002 500
Gambia14 3762 7000196714.01 400–3 5002 000–8 000
Ghana371 81753 6143861414 5323.740 000–53 00040 000–65 000
Guinea30 0001 999176 3840.31 000–2 0005 000
Guinea-Bissau3 500000927   000
Liberia18 7313 9973212 3381.71 000–4 0002 000–4 000
Nigeria248 964103 2095 528 344102 0781.0110 775–120 950200 000–250 000
Sao Tome and Principe2 500000103   010- 4
Senegal299 00014 9663456 8022.213 400–60 00037 000–60 000
Sierra Leone53 00015 98218303 7444.316 000 111 000–14 000
Togo15 176705953 1470.27002 000–6 000

1 official statistics
2 based on most reliable field reports
3 in 1986
4 no data available

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