National fish production could double following the introduction of sardine fish species known as Isambaza into two twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo in Northern Province.
Sardine fish were only available in Lake Kivu.
Now, after trials the fish species will, for the first time, be harvested for the other two northern lakes beginning June this year, according to Solange Uwituze, the Deputy Director General of Animal Research and Technology Transfer at Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board.
She explained the current production of sardine from Lake Kivu varies between 300 tonnes to 500 tonnes per week and the Lakes of Burera and Ruhondo could also provide 500 tonnes per week if the species adapt well.
"The expected production from (the) twin lakes will depend on their adaptability. If their (sardine) adaptability continues the same as the one on Lake Kivu, they are expected to provide more than 500 tonnes at high season every week but this will only be possible once fishermen respect the regulations," she said.
Uwituze said that samples captured from May 19 to 23 this year, indicate steady growth and adaptation of sardine in the two lakes.
Going by interpretation, harvesting 500 tonnes per week from the two lakes alone means two tonnes per month which could lead to over 20,000 tonnes per year.
This will boot total national fish production, which was at 31,465 tonnes last year.
"To sustain the sardine production in the twin lakes, only selective fishing nets will be authorised and depending on the level of adaptation the restocking will be repeated every year," Uwituze explained.
Fighting illegal fishing
Uwituze said that illegal fishing activities was one of the biggest threats to sardine production.
Therefore, she explained, meeting the production target will depend on the ability to control the illegal fishing across the Lakes.
"If all (fishing) is well managed it can even go beyond 1000 tonnes per week," she said.
She noted that a committee composed of different stakeholders for the biodiversity management in both lakes focusing on sardine species and dagaa species will be put in place to protect different fish in the two northern lakes.
In a recent publication by this paper, the fishing community said reduction of sardine production in Lake Kivu was due to illegal fishing and climate change effects.
Patrick Nshimiyimana, a young fisherman from Rutsiro District said that he used to harvest between 20 tonnes and 30 tonnes of sardines every month but this has decreased to between 3 and 5 tonnes due to illegal fishing.
Rwanda seeks to reach 112,000 tonnes of fish output per year by 2024.
The country's fish produce falls short of its demand as it has been importing more than 15,000 tons per year.
Producing 112,000 tons by 2024 per year could help Rwanda attain the average sub-Sahara per capita consumption of 6.6 kilograms per person per annum, and 265,600 metric tons to reach the global average of 16.6 kilos from the current per capita fish consumption which is at 2.3 kilograms per person per year.
The demand will be met by boosting fish production with introducing sardine in other lakes, investing in cage fish farming and revamping fish ponds.