Cage aquaculture on African inland water bodies is necessary. Africans eat
much less fish compared to people on other continents. FAO says that this is
due to low fish supply i.e. less fish is produced on the continent to meet
demand. Other reasons include safety of fish by foreign fleets, denying fish
to local markets and directing rather nutritious fish to fishmeal. This is
important because fish is an important part of human diet. More fish will
be pivotal in the fight against malnutrition and on the continent. Additional
approaches to produce fish such as cage aquaculture are hard to avoid. Our
focus is on how to make them sustainable. Why?
Much as we need more fish, we have to be careful not to be destructive to
the environment and the benefits these water bodies support. These are
services that cage aquaculture may not provide. A few are demonstrated in
tourism, fish production. water provision and fish production.
Tourism: The water bodies are strikingly beautiful and support tourism.
For example, Lake Volta exhibits beautiful shores as shown in this video
sourced from YouTube.
Water for domestic use: From Victoria to Volta, we still fetch water for
domestic use directly from these water bodies. We shall do so for several
more years in future and thus we need proper use.
Fish production: Inland water bodies produce a lot of fish supporting jobs,
revenue and food security (De Graaf & Garibaldi, 2014). Cage aquaculture
may never be able to produce this fish and support these benefits that reach
the poor. More so, fish from aquaculture may not reach the poor due to
higher prices compared to fish from wild fisheries.
Unsustainable cage aquaculture is destructive: Lastly, cage aquaculture,
when not conducted properly is con-sensually known to be destructive to
the environment and ecosystem services. This means that it can reduce the
potential for tourism, fish production and make water too dirty to be used
directly as seen as above. Already, there are areas where cage aquaculture
has caused problems not only to the environment but to also to the farming
ventures. For examples see here and here.
In a new study published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research, various
scientists across the African Great Lakes Region combined data to show the
occurrence and magnitude of cage aquaculture on the African inland
waters (see map below). Using the data, further analysis was conducted to
examine adherence to best practices.
Observations from the study
Cage aquaculture installations have increased on African inland water
bodies. From nine cage aquaculture installations with 185 cages on only
four water bodies in 2006, currently (2018), more than 263 installations
with >20,000 cages on 18 water bodies are estimated. Cage aquaculture on
the water bodies is no longer at the pilot stage but is commercial and
expanding in terms of size of farms and number of water bodies used for
Unfortunately, the expansion of cage aquaculture is not simultaneous with
total adherence to best practices. For instance, cage aquaculture
installations are extant in areas with excessive nutrients, shallow sites and
water bodies and inactive installations are not fully decommissioned.
In the paper, three main recommendations are articulated to sustain cage
aquaculture development on African inland waters. These are:
- Establishment of zones with full adherence to best practices
- Development and promoting best practices
- Development of strong regulatory frameworks and institutions where
they are not available
De Graaf, G., Garibaldi, L., 2014. The value of African fisheries. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Circular. No. 1093. FAO, Rome, p. 76.