1. A collapse of Nile perch stocks of Lake Victoria could affect up to 30 million people. Furthermore, changes in Nile perch population size-structure and stocks make the threat of collapse imminent. However, whether eutrophication or fishing will be the bane of Nile perch is still debated. 2. Here, we attempt to unravel how changes in food resources, a side effect of eutrophication, and fishing mortality determine fish population growth and size structures. We parameterised a physiologically structured model to Nile perch, analysed the influence of ontogenetic diet shifts and relative resource abundances on existence boundaries of Nile perch and described the populations on either side of these boundaries. 3. Our results showed that ignoring ontogenetic diet shifts can lead to over-estimating the maximum sustainable mortality of a fish population. Size distributions can be indicators of processes driving population dynamics. However, the vulnerability of stocks to fishing mortality is dependent on its environment and is not always reflected in size distributions. 4. We suggest that the ecosystem, instead of populations, should be used to monitor long-term effects of human impact.