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1. The Third Session of the Committee for Inland Fisheries of Africa (CIFA) Sub-Committee for the Development and Management of the Fisheries of Lake Victoria was held on 4 and 5 October 1984 at Jinja, Uganda.

2. The Session was attended by representatives of Kenya and Uganda. Tanzania was represented by an observer from the Tanzania High Commission. Observers from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the European Economic Community (EEC), the Uganda Freshwater Fisheries Research Organization (UFFRO) and the Haplochromis Ecology Survey Team (HEST) were also in attendance. A list of delegates and observers is given in Appendix A of the report.

3. The Session was opened by the Minister of Animal Industry and Fisheries of Uganda, Hon. J.J. Otim, who welcomed the participants and drew attention to the importance of the fishery resources of the Lake and the supply of animal protein to the riparian states. He also underlined the role of the fisherman as a producer of food for the benefit of the population as a whole.

4. The Secretary welcomed the participants on behalf of the Director-General of FAO, Mr. E. Saouma, and the Assistant Director-General (Fisheries), Mr. J.E. Carroz.

5. The Secretariat then reviewed the activities of the CIFA Sub-Committee since its First Session in 1981 and Second Session in 1983. The priorities identified by the member countries during the above meetings and the activities of FAO in support to the Sub-Committee during the inter-sessional period were also reviewed. The successful collaboration which has developed between the Sub-Committee, its mother body FAO and the European Economic Community since the First Session of the Sub-Committee was described and emphasized.


6. Mr. A.R. Biribonwoha, Commissioner for Fisheries for Uganda, and Mr. S. Alela, Director of Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, were elected Chairman and Vice-Chairman, respectively.


7. The Annotated Agenda and Timetable were adopted as attached in Appendix B. The documents presented to the Session are shown in Appendix C.


Report of the Symposium on the Main Management and Development Issues

8. Under item 4 of the Agenda, the Sub-Committee considered the report of the Symposium and adopted it as follows:

9. The Symposium was convened on 2–3 October 1984, as part of the Third Session of the CIFA Sub-Committee for the Development and Management of the Fisheries of Lake Victoria in order to advise the Sub-Committee on the status of the stocks of fish in Lake Victoria, to suggest management measures that may be necessary and to define priorities for research on the Lake. It was attended by 35 scientists and administrators from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda who presented 13 papers (see Appendix D), which form Annex 1 of this report.

10. Although Lake Victoria still has a number of fisheries based on some 17 species or species groups most species are in decline. Recent trends in inshore waters indicate a growing dominance by four taxa only, one of which, the haplochromines, is itself threatened. These are Lates niloticus, Rastrineobola argentea, Oreochromis niloticus and the haplochromine species group. Lake Kyoga has previously followed a history which has converted it from a multi-species fishery to one comprising only the first three of these species.

11. The real or apparent decline in abundance of many species may be due to a number of factors among which are:

  1. Changes in fishing pattern whereby species are still present but are no longer caught due to the widespread adoption of larger mesh nets.

  2. Species are preyed upon by Nile perch.

  3. Species are in competition with Nile perch for food.

  4. In the case of Oreochromis niloticus there is a possibility that hybridization with O. niloticus has resulted in the merging of their gene stocks.

  5. Local overfishing in some areas of the Lake.

  6. Environmental change, degradation and pollution.

Research is needed to clarify the causes of decline.

12. Nile perch has now become established in all waters of the Lake. Its numbers have increased until in many areas it comprises over half the catch and in the Nyanza Gulf it contributes as much as 75 percent of the fish caught by weight. The most recent area to show an increase in the Lates population is the south of the Lake. There are definite indications that Lates may be present in an area for many years before undergoing an explosive expansion. The species has been in the Lake for over 25 years and it is only in the last five of these that serious effects have been noted.

13. Oreochromis niloticus and R. argentea are preyed upon to some extent by Lates in Lake Victoria but this predation is not apparently affecting catches of these species at present. In Lake Kyoga on the other hand, both these species are an important element in the diet of Lates.

  1. Young Nile perch, and possibly older individuals in the absence of other food sources, utilize Caridina nilotica as a major food both in Lakes Kyoga and Victoria. The amount of Caridina consumed indicates that a considerable biomass of this crustacean exists in Lake Victoria. The size of this is at present unknown and research is necessary to clarify the distribution and abundance of this species in view of its importance in sustaining Nile perch stocks.

  2. Adult Nile perch feed heavily on haplochromine cichlids in Lake Victoria. This has produced demonstrable declines in abundance of the haplochromines in the Buvuma/Napoleon Gulf area and their disappearance from the Nyanza Gulf. Haplochromines have also been severely reduced in abundance in Lake Kyoga where they now form only a minor food item.

  3. As other food sources disappear, middle-sized Nile perch turn increasingly to auto-predation thereby providing a possible mechanism for stabilization of stocks.

Continued monitoring of the distribution and biology (particularly the feeding behaviour) of Lates, is necessary to understand its progress in the Lake.

14. Haplochromine cichlids have been shown to be extremely vulnerable to fishing in the southern portion of the Lake for the following reasons:

  1. Most species are strongly habitat-restricted and move little. Therefore, local overfishing occurs rapidly and is not compensated for by immigration.

  2. Many species have seasonal breeding and recruitment overfishing may occur if they are exploited during the breeding season.

  3. Because of selective disappearance of larger species early in the fishing-up process some food sources, e.g., molluscs, may be left unexploited by the fish community of the Lake thereby resulting in overfishing and consequent reduction in overall efficiency by the system.

  4. Because of the present mesh sizes used (20 mm) even the smallest species are vulnerable to the fishery.

15. It is important that these findings, which are based on research work in the south of the Lake, be tested in the northern waters to verify their more widespread applicability. The Sub-Committee recommends that the Government of the Netherlands be approached to continue the work of the HEST group in Mwanza and to request its extension to the rest of the Lake, in view of its importance for management policy on the Lake. Should it not be possible to pursue the Haplochromis research programme by this means, alternative sources of funding should be located to continue this work.

16. Catch rates of haplochromines in the commercial and experimental trawl fisheries have declined in both the Mwanza and Jinja areas and have fallen to virtually nil in the Nyanza Gulf. Total catch rates have also fallen in places and it is recommended that a Workshop be convened whereby scientists from all three countries can evaluate trawl data from the last few years and compare it with the UNDP survey of 1968–71.

17. Rational management of the haplochromine stock even in the absence of Nile perch appeared to require very careful regulation of the fishery with respect to fishing pressure, closed seasons or habitats and mesh size. However, it is now almost certain that the stock cannot support the twin stresses of heavy predation by Lates and a fishery. Further investment in an industrial fishery for haplochromines or products based upon them would be extremely unwise, as a continued supply of fish cannot be guaranteed.

18. The introduction of Nile perch to utilize the haplochromine cichlids of the Lake might be regarded as successful in terms of its original objectives. However, two scenarios now appear possible:

  1. Lates will stabilize with its food resources. In this case productivity of the Lake will fall slightly from the early “boom” but will remain relatively steady. This level of production is assumed to be some 80 percent less than the productivity achieved by the pre-Nile perch community due to energy losses by the predator. The loss may, however, be compensated for by the greater value and quality of the fish caught.

  2. Lates will overshoot the food resources available to it by eliminating many of the species on which it preys and creating an unbalanced fish community with a lower base production potential than previously. This would lead to a “boom and bust” situation with eventual levels of offtake from the Lake being much lower than in scenario (i).

19. Whichever of these scenarios is correct, management and investment policies are influenced. It is, therefore, critical to the future development of the Lake that the evolution of the fish stock be closely monitored by all three member countries of the Sub-Committee.

20. At the present time, the correct strategy for fisheries in the Lake would appear to be to fish the Nile perch as heavily as possible without endangering other species. Possibilities for changing any local regulations that prevent this should be investigated. Such a fishing policy would need to be supported by a continuous monitoring programme to permit assessment to be made at intervals of the effects of the policy and to recommend any changes necessary in it.

21. Most research is still confined to the inshore areas and the open waters of the Lake remain relatively unknown. It is, therefore, important to investigate the deeper open waters of the Lake to:

  1. Clarify the distribution and biology of the pelagic community including planktonophage haplochromine and Rastrineobola species;

  2. Clarify the biology and abundance of the benthic deep water community.

These two communities may or may not represent a sizeable resource but, until they are investigated, knowledge of the Lake remains incomplete.

22. There are indications that degradation of water quality through pollution or other human activities may be locally damaging fish stocks. Monitoring for and identification of possible environmental problems is needed for the maintenance of a healthy fishery.

23. From the above, the following research topics can be defined in order of priority:

  1. Monitoring and assessment of the distribution and biology of Nile perch and haplochromine cichlid stocks.

  2. Investigation of the open waters of the Lake.

  3. Assessment of the distribution and biomass of Caridina nilotica.

  4. Research into the biology of:
    1. Rastrineobola argentea
    2. Oreochromis niloticus

  5. Monitoring of distribution and abundance of minor species.

  6. Detection and monitoring of water quality.

  7. Clarification of food webs and energy flow within the Lake.

24. The scope of these individual items may be merged one with another. Priorities may equally change with time and with changes in the ecology of the Lake.

25. The Secretariat was requested to provide a consultant or find alternative funding to carry out water quality studies and to set up monitoring units to be located in the various research institutes.

26. While research such as (v) and (vi) can be carried out on an individual basis, the scope of research of other items goes beyond the capacities of any single Member State. Interchange of information and a lakewide approach are therefore necessary for true progress to be made. To this end the Sub-Committee established a Standing Working Party on Research Coordination for Lake Victoria, in accordance with FAO Rules and Procedures. This should have as its membership:

27. The Working Party should:

  1. Define research activities needed for an understanding of the lake fish stocks and propose new projects or topics for research as necessary;

  2. Review progress made in individual projects;

  3. Coordinate such research activities between Member States;

  4. Facilitate interchange of research personnel between countries and institutions;

  5. Report to the Sub-Committee on the state of stocks in order that appropriate management strategies can be formulated.

  6. Formulate projects and requests for external assistance needed to support research programmes on the Lake for consideration and support by the Sub-Committee.

28. The resources presently available in the member countries are insufficient to ensure that the work needed for the correct management of the Lake is carried out. The Sub-Committee of FAO was strongly urged to locate sources of funding whereby research facilities can be upgraded to a point where adequate data can be assembled and made available to the decision-makers.

29. It is evident that the catch statistics which are also vital for the monitoring of changes in catch composition and abundance need improvement and standardization. It is, therefore, recommended that a course be held to establish a common system for collection and interpretation of fish catch data throughout Lake Victoria.

30. The papers presented at the Symposium form the subject of Annex I of this report.


31. Under Agenda item 5(a), the Secretariat summarized the need to reach agreement on a procedure whereby new introductions into the Lake can be regulated. Document CIFA:DM/LV/84/4 was presented as an example of a Code of Practice already adopted by an international body.

32. The Sub-Committee agreed that some procedure needed to be set up whereby proposed transfers can be evaluated and discussed on an international basis. This topic should be referred to the Standing Working Party on Research for further study as far as the Lake Victoria Basin is concerned. The matter should also be referred to CIFA for wider consideration within its area of competence.


33. The report of the FAO Workshop on Fish Technology and Quality Control organized under the auspices of CIFA in Mwanza, Tanzania, from 11 July to 19 August 1983 was presented by the Secretariat under item 5(b) of the Agenda.

34. The Sub-Committee expressed its appreciation to FAO for the organization of the Workshop which proved to be very important to the riparian countries of Lake Victoria. The Sub-Committee was informed of the follow up to the recommendations of the Workshop given by FAO. A Training Course on Fish Technology and Quality Control will be organized in Uganda in 1985. A preparatory mission will take place later this year.

35. As discussed by the Workshop, increased catches of Nile perch raise serious problems of proper utilization. The technological properties of Nile perch, the processing methods, product distribution and marketing need further study. To this effect, FAO is preparing to undertake a major feasibility study in cooperation with research institutions in the East African region. The Sub-Committee welcomed this initiative and suggested that the study on processing methods of Nile perch should, in particular, give special attention to silage, canning in brine, smoking and by-products. The experience of Mali on the processing of Nile perch, which was developed with the assistance of the EEC and FAO should also be considered.


36. Under Agenda item 6 the Sub-Committee was informed of the progress made in the preparation of regional projects of applied fisheries research for the management and development of the fisheries of Lake Victoria to be financed by the EEC and executed in close collaboration with FAO.

37. Document CIFA:DM/LV/84/6 entitled “The Lake Victoria Fisheries in East Africa, Coordination of Fishery Research and Development Service in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania” was discussed. It was recalled that this document, prepared by an EEC consultant, Mr. C.E.P. Watson, was the result of Mr. Watson's and Dr. R.L. Welcomme's (FAO) mission to the region in November 1983. The EEC delegate informed the meeting that the document had been submitted to the three Governments concerned for comments at the beginning of 1984 and that the comments had been received and duly noted by the EEC. These will be taken into consideration during the formulation of the project. He explained that the project under consdieration was small but should be considered as a First Phase of the regional programme which would concentrate on limited objectives including fishery statistics, revitalizing the research facilities in each country, providing technical support to the CIFA Lake Victoria Sub-Committee and defining the Second Phase of the regional long-term programme.

38. Financing for the Second Phase would, of course, be linked to the signature of Lomé III but should offer considerable opportunities for further resources. Delegates from Kenya and Uganda reiterated their Governments' views that budget allocations for outside experts were too high and should be reduced substantially while allocation for equipment and training should be increased accordingly. The EEC delegate agreed with these views and informed the Sub-Committee that only one outside expert for a period of two years is foreseen in the budget of the project. The savings thus realized would make it possible to increase the budget codes for equipment and training.

39. The delegates also reiterated their view as expressed in paragraph 4.1.4 of Mr. Watson's report which reads as follows:

“4.1.4 Fisheries Department and Ministry officials in Tanzania and Kenya were firm in their view that although they were very much in favour of a coordinated programme of research and development for the Lake Victoria fisheries, they saw the approach as one in which the three national institutions were each strengthened as necessary to perform their respective tasks within the coordinated programme of work, whilst still retaining their separate national identities. The coordinating role, including research planning, allocation of tasks as between the three national institutes and the dissemination of research results and other data, etc., would require a central Committee, mainly comprising the three national Directors of Fisheries and the three research institute heads, with some additional logistic and expert support.”

40. The delegates were informed of the procedure for the formulation of the project documents to be followed by EEC. A ministerial meeting of the three countries concerned will be required to officially request the regional project and, following that request, a period of at least three months will be necessary to finalize the project document. In order to speed up the preparation of the final project document, the following resolutions were formulated and unanimously approved by the Sub-Committee.

41. In view of the ongoing concern of the members of the Sub-Committee as expressed in recommendations of its previous two Sessions and the conclusions and recommendations of the Symposium, the Sub-Committee adopted the following resolutions:

Resolution No. 1

42. In view of the dramatic change in the fisheries ecology of Lake Victoria during recent years, as confirmed by the CIFA Symposium held on 2–3 October 1984, which was formally approved by the Committee, the Committee consider it of prime importance that a Regional Programme of Applied Fisheries Research for the Management and Development of the Fisheries of Lake Victoria should be undertaken.

Resolution No. 2

43. In a First Phase, such a Programme should be concentrated on:

Resolution No. 3

44. This period of initial research would be expected to provide the basis for the development of a regional fisheries management strategy for rational exploitation of the Lake's resources to be implemented by each country concerned. Such a strategy may include, for example, the harmonization of fisheries legislation, establishment of quotas, closed seasons for fishery, minimum mesh sizes, and other measures for regulating catches and conserving fish stocks.

Resolution No. 4

45. The Committee approves in general the content of the Watson report submitted in January 1984 and financed by the European Economic Community and, taking into account the comments made by the individual members of the Sub-Committee, requests that a regional project be drafted along the lines agreed above and presented to the EEC for financing.

Resolution No. 5

46. The delegates to the CIFA Sub-Committee on Lake Victoria agree to submit these resolutions to their appropriate authorities for formal Government approval. Formal notice of such approval should be expressed to the EEC by the National Authorizing Officers of each country within a period of two months.


47. Under item 7 of the Agenda - Any Other Matters - the Sub-Committee expressed the very strong wish for the reactivation of the Journal as the principal organ for the dissemination of information on inland fisheries in the Region and in Africa as a whole. As such, it is a powerful tool for the encouragement of technical cooperation. Some 60 manuscripts are still awaiting publication in the Journal which ceased publication in 1975. The main requirement for its reissue is sufficient funds to print and distribute the first volumes as it was foreseen that the Journal should eventually be financed entirely by the resources of the three member countries of the Sub-Committee. The Standing Working Group should be convened at the earliest possible time to discuss among other items ways and means whereby the Journal can be restarted. The Secretariat is also strongly requested to locate a source of funding for the restarting of the Journal.


48. Kenya offered to host the Fourth Session of the Sub-Committee in Kisumu. This offer was gratefully accepted by the Sub-Committee. The exact date of the Session will be decided by the Director-General of FAO in consultation with the Chairman and the authorities of the host country. The Session could be preceded by a meeting of the Working Party on Research.


49. This report was adopted on 5 October 1984.

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