The Lake Victoria Nile Perch (NP - Lates niloticus) fishery is the most valuable freshwater fishery in Africa and since the 1990s has supported an export-orientated fishery that generates a significant source of revenue for the population of the three riparian countries. The catch of NP has averaged 250,000 tonnes per year for the last two decades. During the last decade, the fishery has faced serious problems of debt and overfishing and high levels of non-compliance to regulations in the fishing and post-harvest sub-sectors. This has led to decreasing health of fish stocks, resulting in an increased vulnerability of the resource and a decline in the contribution of fisheries to the people and communities along the lake.
A Fishery Management Plan for the Nile perch Fishery (NPFMP1) covering the period 2009-2014 was developed in 2008 by Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO). Other initiatives, both national and regional, aimed at reversing the Nile perch stock decline have also been promoted since 2008. The implementation of these plans has led to some progress in the management of the NP fishery; however, the fisheries are still in decline. At the end of 2013, the LVFO began a revision of NPFMP1 and requested the assistance of the EU-funded SmartFish Programme to prepare a final draft NPFMP2 covering the period 2015-2019. The final plan, NPFMP2, 2015-2019, April 2015, incorporates the comments, suggestions and recommendations made during stakeholders ' meetings in March of 2015. The hope is that each country will also develop a specific action plan.
An in-depth analysis of the current situation and trends in the NP fishery and its governance system calls for a change in management and the adoption of a new paradigm that can be summarised as follows:
- Promote a different and more appropriate approach for a social management of the NP fishery. This should include mechanisms for participatory management services and establishing methods to increase wealth creation and sharing at a local level.
- Management should be policy-driven at both central and local levels in relation to wealth generation. Current economic benefits that are derived from the NP fishery are sub-optimal and unsustainable. Economic benefits will be sustained or possibly significantly increased if the necessary investments in institutions and infrastructure are created in support of the management plan.
- The promotion of a specific and operational NP fishery management plan is of utmost importance. Major lessons learned from NPFMP1 have shown that NPFMP2 should better address regulation of access to resources, compliance with existing fishing regulations and formalisation/regulation of all post-harvest activities. Moreover, NPFMP2 should be more action-driven and implementation orientated. Management arrangements should further involve actual (commercial) actors including fishers, boat-owners, processors and traders.
- There will be a need to ensure that all public institutions concerned with fishery management (including local government and the judiciary system) are accountable for their actions.
- A sustainable approach for the financing of NPFMP2 must be found. Government financing for fisheries management should be in relation to bio-ecological, economic and social stakes. Reliance on external funding should be reduced. Particular attention should also be placed on establishing mechanisms for co-financing by all commercial operators involved in fishing and the fisheries value chain.
- Research should focus on providing technical and scientific advice to support decision-making in relation to the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of NPFMP2. This should include improving knowledge on stock dynamics and status and developing capacity in each country and at the LVFO Secretariat level.
- In order to reach the specific management objectives, the NPFMP2 provides a strategy that includes ending open access to the fishery, ensuring compliance of all actors involved in fishing and post-harvest activities with existing regulations, promotion of actions aimed at continuing rebuilding the NP stock, and promotion of value addition.