Efforts set in place to save Tilapia species

Fish production partners hold fingerlings of the endangered Tilapia which were being introduced in Lake Victoria at Rowo beach in Homa Bay County. [James Omoro, Standard]

Efforts to restock an endangered species of Tilapia in Lake Victoria have kicked off.

Oreochromis esculentus is a species of tilapia that is nearly extinct in the lake due to overfishing and other factors.

Oreochromis esculentus, also known as Singida tilapia, is a large-bodied tilapia with a small rounded head, short snout, forward-facing mouth, deep body, relatively small eyes for its body size, and generally lacking any dark stripes.

According to William Onditi, the chairman of Suba Beach Management Units, the population of Oreochromis esculentus used to be high when he started fishing in Lake Victoria in the 1970s.

However, the fish population began to dwindle, and today, the species of the fish is rarely found in the lake.

The decline is attributed to various factors, including human activities that interfere with the breeding grounds meant for the multiplication of fish. These human activities also include illegal fishing, which causes the death of young fish that would have contributed to future populations.

Other factors contributing to this decline include the adverse effects of climate change.

In an initiative aimed at restoring the population of Oreochromis esculentus, various organisations have collaborated on a joint effort to restock it.

This is achieved by introducing fingerlings of the tilapia species into the lake.

Conservation International, in partnership with Victory Farms, the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), has initiated the project.

Other partners involved in the project include the Homa Bay government, Kenya Fisheries Service, and Beach Management Units.

In the programme, Conservation International identifies the best fish breeding sites in the lake, while KMFRI assists in research on best practices in fish production.

The initiative commenced at Rowo Beach in Suba Sub-county, where Victory Farms introduced 4,000 fingerlings of Oreochromis esculentus into Lake Victoria. After Rowo, the introduction of the fingerlings will progress to Gingo, Wakula, and Wadiang’a beaches.

The launch at Rowo beach was presided over by Leonard Akwany, the Conservation International Freshwater Director for Africa; Miriam Mohamed, Associate Director of Development at Victory Farms; and Paul Orina, Assistant Director at KMFRI.

The leaders said they initiated the project in response to numerous complaints from fishermen regarding low catch and the scarcity of tilapia species. Research conducted by KMFRI revealed the extinction of the species.