How sustainable is the Ethiopian fishing industry?

Posted by mjs76 at May 15, 2012 11:30 AM |
Online video: unloading the catch at Lake Hawassa.
How sustainable is the Ethiopian fishing industry?

image: Wikipedia

Some of our academics were in Ethiopia last week as part of the University of Leicester’s long-standing link with Gondar University. Professor Pat Heslop-Harrison from our Department of Biology and Dr Mark Goodwin from our genetics education centre GENIE took the opportunity, while in Africa, of a trip to the Rift Valley to look at issues of agriculture and sustainability.

Pat has now posted online an interesting video of the local fishing industry on Lake Hawassa, as a resource for the undergraduate Biological Sciences module in Biodiversity and Sustainability (which, from next year, will include a field course). The video shows about 20 boats landing a catch on a fairly restricted piece of lake shore (inbetween a military area and a tourist area). The fish – mostly a type of chichlid called tilapia - are very quickly sold and filleted, often by children, with the guts eagerly snapped up by the huge marabou storks that casually wander among the boats.

Sustainability is a huge issue, with nothing coping with the 2.5% annual population increase. However, unlike most other places in the world with population problems, neither water nor energy should be a major limiting resource in Ethiopia. The fishing operation on Lake Hawassa was obviously providing a substantial amount of food protein to the whole area, as well as high employment – whether it is sustainable is debated, but the net size restriction, vegetarian nature of the fish (hence putting them low in the food chain), and the limited landing area probably mean that overexploitation is not as major a problem as some others that we saw (cutting wood for fuel, seen being incredibly wastefully used in the cooking at the end of the video), or overgrazing.
Professor Pat Heslop-Harrison

A lot of Pat’s research involves bananas so, while in the Rift Valley, he also spent a lot of time looking at ensete, a closely related crop which is eaten by 10 million people in Southern Ethiopia. Rather than eating the fruit, the stem, corm (tuber) and root are cooked up to provide starch. Pat is currently preparing a blog/video on this subject.