Lake Victoria, covering an area of 68,800 sq km is the second world’s largest freshwater Lake and single most important inland fishery in the world. Situated in East Africa, the Lake is Shared between three countries, Tanzania (51%), Uganda (43%) and Kenya (6%) and support the livelihoods of over 35 million inhabitants that depend directly or indirectly on the lake. The fisheries sub-sector is a significant source of livelihood and employment and accounts for approximately 2-3% to the combined gross domestic product of the three countries employing over 3 million people of whom about 200,000 are fishers. The annual regional contribution of the fishery is estimated to be € 710 million but is mainly dominated by the export of a single species, the Nile perch (Lates niloticus).
In the past 30 years, the Lake Victoria ecosystem has undergone dramatic ecological tipping point associated with the introduction and invasion of the Nile Perch in the 1960s, which led to the shift of the original ecosystem dominated by haplochromine cichlids and other native species. Recent research findings seem to suggest the possibility of a second tipping point characterised by the decline and near collapse of the Nile perch fishery due to the export-led boom in fishing effort around the lake since the 1990s, which has given rise to unsustainable biomass extraction patterns.
Given the open-access nature of the Lake Victoria fishery and the weak enforcement and compliance to fishing regulations, changes in fishing behaviour require collective action both at the local, national, and international levels. To this end, the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO) was formed in 1994 to coordinate the management and conservation of the lake and the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) to coordinate environmental issues in the lake basin working closely with the national Fisheries Institutes and the Beach Management Units (BMU) and other stakeholders .