Cage fishing in Uganda

Cage fishing in Uganda

Growing demand

Fishmonger Betty Pimeri sells Nile perch at the Ambercourt market, a few kilometers from the shores of Lake Victoria. A mature Nile perch can weigh up to 200 kilograms (440 pounds), but those fish are rare in Lake Victoria these days. Illegal fishing practices and an increased demand for fish from a growing population around Africa's Great Lakes region have contributed to the decline.

Cage fishing in Uganda

From fish farm to table

To solve the problem, fisheries have looked to China for inspiration. At the SON Fish Farm in Bugungu, a member of the Zimbabwe-based Lake Harvest Group, fish are farmed to meet consumer demand. The fish are first raised in establishment ponds like these, then taken to larger ponds and eventually to floating metal cages. There, they are fed daily until they reach a good size and are ready to eat.

Cage fishing in Uganda

Environmental risk

The first cages were trialed between 2004 and 2006. Thousands of farming cages have since been set up along the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya and Uganda. But environmentalists have warned that such a huge concentration of cages could contribute to water pollution, through chemically treated feed and fish feces. Scientists have been trying to develop better policies and management standards.

Cage fishing in Uganda

Free meal

Perching birds are a common sight on the floating fish cages of the SON Fish Farm around Bugungu, on the Lake Victoria shoreline. The birds feed on wild fish which are attracted to the floating cages by the food that slips through the bars and into the open water. One cage can hold up to 5,000 male fish — males are preferred because they grow faster.

Cage fishing in Uganda

Off to market

Workers at the Masese cooperative society must carefully prepare the harvested fish for transportation to the Ugandan capital, Kampala, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) to the west. The fish are caught and wrapped in plastic, then stored on layers of ice, keeping them fresh until delivered to the market.

Cage fishing in Uganda

EU, Asian appetite

At the Ggaba landing site on the outskirts of Kampala, a fish vendor brings Nile perch to sell at the market. Unlike Nile tilapia which can be raised in cages, the predatory Nile perch only survives in the wild. There's a huge market for the latter in the European Union and Asia.

Cage fishing in Uganda

Nothing goes to waste

Fish sellers still aren't letting anything go to waste. At the Masese Landing in Jinja, Uganda, Safina Namukose dries Nile perch heads and backbones. In the past, these parts of the fish were thrown away; today, they are salted, dried and shipped to markets in neighboring South Sudan, Rwanda, the Central African Republic and Congo.

Lake Victoria's fish stocks have declined in the last two decades, and fishing communities have suffered. In Africa's Great Lakes Region, fishermen have turned to cage fish farming as an alternative food source.