The impact of the introduction of Nile perch, Lates niloticus (L.) on the fisheries of Lake Victoria



The piscivorous Nile perch was introduced into Lake Victoria some 30 years ago, since when it has completely transformed the fishing industry and the species composition of the fish fauna of the lake. The original multispecies fishery, based mostly on cichlids (haplochromines, tilapias), cyprinids (Barbus, Labeo, Rastrineobola) and siluroids (Bagrus, Clarias, Synodontis, Schilbe), has changed dramatically to one based on three species: the introduced Nile perch, the cyprinids, Rastrineobola argenrea (Pellegrin), and the introduced Nile tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus (Linnaeus).

Within 25 years of its introduction the Nile perch became ubiquitous and now occurs in virtually every habitat with the exception of swamps and affluent rivers. It has preyed on all other species with profound effects, especially on the stocks of haplochromines. These originally comprised 80% of the total fish biomass in Lake Victoria, but have now decreased to less than 1% offish catches from the Kenyan waters of the lake. The fishermen of Lake Victoria have adjusted to this ecological crisis by using large-meshed nets to catch Nile perch, which has become the most important commercial species. For the first time in the history of Lake Victoria, fish fillets are now being exported to several overseas countries: the fillets are all from Nile perch.