Seeing the water for the fish: building on perspectives of Lake Victoria

Downing, A.S.


Over the past century, Lake Victoria, in East Africa, has been stage to the most dramatic social, economical and ecological changes: it saw a hundreds-rich diversity of fish species collapse; an introduced predator (Nile perch) invade and become the product of a valuable international fish export trade – a trade that invited an insurge of migrants to work on the lake’s shores.

Since the 1990s, there has been an increase in dependence on the lake’s resources – including Nile perch and the other commercial fishes of the lake – and a decrease in the predictability and reliability of these resources.

We here use a variety of ecological models to explore how changes in fishing and water quality influence changes in the lake’s food webs and Nile perch stocks. We describe the lake in its social-ecological perspective, and define the makers and breakers of the system’s resilience and recommend holistic and adaptive management policies.