Fish farmers in Lake Victoria are counting losses amounting to hundreds of millions after thousands of fish died in cages following a deadly natural phenomenon sweeping across Lake Victoria.
According to David Ogal, one of the farmers counting the losses, the proprietors have fallen into multi-million debts due to the losses.
“This is the job I do every day to fend for my family. If the government can perhaps check to tell us how they will help us with food and how we can take our children to school then we will appreciate it,” says Ogal.
At least 90 fish cages across the lake have been affected by the phenomenon, according to Edward Oremo, chairman of the Homa Bay beach management unit.
“Every cage has about 6,000 fish you multiply on the lower side by 200 or 300 shillings per piece it can even get to Ksh100 million,” says Oremo.
The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute claims that suffocation is the cause of the deaths of some Lake Victoria fish, due to low oxygen levels.
The low oxygen levels are caused by a natural phenomenon called “potted upwelling,” where changes in wind direction affect the currents in the lake, causing the mixing of the deep waters with waters from the surface on sections of the lake.
“The water which is on the surface is light and has high temperatures it is forced to move away and the water from below comes up and occupies that space therefore the problem with the fish in the cage is that they are confined and so when there is that upwelling which will take about an hour or less the fish confined in the cages now lack that oxygen,” says Dr Joseph Nyaundu, a researcher at KMFRI.
Parts of Kisumu city have been plagued by a strong odour due to the dying fish for at least a month.
KMFRI claims that the 8,000 acres of decaying water hyacinth and other aquatic plants, which are also being cleaned from the lake floor and floating close to the surface, are also to blame for the offensive odour. This stink is particularly strong in the afternoon when the sun is shining.
“People are not comfortable eating the fish. Even when you go to buy it you are not sure of what could be inside it,” says Emily Achieng, a food vendor.
Dr Christopher Aura, director of freshwater systems at KMFRI, claims that the duration of the odour depends on the amount of organic waste present.
“The organic matter is the water hyacinth that has sunk and other aquatic plants that have sunk and of course, the pungent smell will decline and go only if there is increased rainfall to cause precipitation and strong winds,” says Aura.
While pollution may not be to blame for the current scenario, KMFRI has asked for greater vigilance, claiming that the ongoing dumping of chemicals into the lake may promote the growth of hyacinth and other weeds, aggravating the strong odour that is released during upwelling.
Email your news TIPS to firstname.lastname@example.org