Abiy Tsome, the major Ethiopian Orthodox fasting season that lasts for nearly two months, is usually a boon for the fish industry, but not this year. Retailers, restaurants and fishermen are all complaining about the dip in both demand and supply.
The primary challenge is reported to be a significant fall in the production of fish. The industry maintained momentum in the early part of this decade, with fish production growing at an average rate of 27pc between 2013 and 2015. There was a dramatic decline in growth in 2016 and 2017, however, when production flatlined. Last year, fish production was reported to have recovered to an 11.3pc growth rate.
Surface area of fresh water bodies in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia's fish production potential
The nation only produces 59pc of its potential, which experts peg at 94,500tn of fish a year. Ethiopia is also endowed with 7,740 square kilometres of lake and reservoir surface area and 7,000Km of rivers.
The decline in production was first observed as water hyacinth, aka Emboch became widespread in lakes such as Tana and Ziway. In Lake Tana, Emboch expanded to cover over 5,000ha of water surface last year.
77Number of fish species found in the Blue Nile Basin.
Number of fishermen and aquaculture participants
But both industry insiders and government authorities agree that the main reasons for the decline are illegal fishing - especially the application of fishing nets with small holes - and industrial pollution, problems that experts say have been festering for years.
"Currently, we are preparing a directive to regulate fishing licenses and are preparing awareness campaigns on fishing," said Hussien Abegaz, fishery resource development director at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Amount of fish produced in the nine months of the current fiscal year
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