6 April 2012

Tanzania: Water Pollution Threatens Lake Victoria

Bukoba — EXPERTS say pollution and environmental degradation has led to the extinction of a large number of fish species in Lake Victoria over the last four decades. Fish in Lake Victoria was plundered at an alarming rate calling for urgent steps to save marine life in the Lake.

The co-ordinator of ACCORD Tanzania, Mr Donald Kasongi, told a group of journalists who attended workshop on science, technology and research recently in Mwanza that there were indications that more fish species in Lake Victoria would become extinct within the next 30 years.

A study conducted by the ACCORD Tanzania has revealed that by 2048 there will be much less fish in the Lake Victoria. The study revealed that Nile Perch stocks went down from 750,000 tonnes during 2005 to 337,000 tonnes, in 2008. Tilapia also dropped from 27,061 tonnes to 24,811 tonnes over the same period.

The study also revealed that while there were over 400 fish species in Lake Victoria during 1920s, the number had dropped to almost zero with a few species available including Nile Perch (sangara), Tilapia (sato) and sardines (dagaa). "This is quite alarming and a joint effort is needed to safeguard the resources.There is over fishing and environmental pollution in Lake Victoria," explained Mr Kasongi.

Experts say residents in the Lake Victoria Basin are in danger as a result of pollution of Lake Victoria and people are consuming contaminated fish. The Lake Victoria Basin has an estimated population of 30 million people, and the population is likely to double in the next 15 years. The chairperson of the Fisheries Union Organisation (FUO) in Mwanza, Mr Juvenari Matagili, said over 50 per cent of the 56,000 fishermen who depend on the Lake for their livelihood had lost employment due to environmental depletion.

Under the East African Co-operation Treaty, the Lake Victoria Basin has been categorised as an economic growth zone. Available investment opportunities include agriculture and livestock, trade and commerce, fishing, mining, wildlife and tourism. An investigation conducted by the 'Daily News' at different fish landing sites established that many fish species are almost extinct due to illegal fishing methods.

In some cases, unscrupulous fishermen use poison to fish. The poisoned fish are sold in Mwanza, Dar es Salaam, Songea and Arusha while other fish are exported to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, say observers.

A recent survey conducted around the Lake Victoria's beaches by the Lake Victoria Environmental Management Programme (LVEMP) revealed among other things, the fish breeding grounds have been destroyed by water pollution. The use of illegal fishing gear, such as gillnets, monofilaments and beach seines are on the rise. A total of 169,747 gillnets, 2,116 monofilaments and 991 beach seines found at various fish landing sites, cause over fishing on the Lake.

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