Agaria (Haplochromis Argenteus)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 202524276
To promote survival prospects of critically endangered Haplochromis Argenteus in Lake Bisina and the surrounding wetlands in Eastern Uganda.
Following the introduction of the predatory Nile Perch in Lake Victoria, most cichlid fish species particularly Haplochromis Argenteus declined rapidly in Uganda. The rapid decline of Haplochromis Argenteus in the country, was and still is being exacerbated by the continued use of unsustainable fishing methods and the degradation of the surrounding wetland ecosystem.
This project was designed to contribute towards increasing the population of critically endangered Haplochromis Argenteus in Lake Bisina and the surrounding wetlands in Eastern Uganda. The project was anchored on a two pronged approach. The first being education of stakeholders on the rapid decline of Haplochromis Argenteus in the country, the causes of the decline, and the need to conserve biodiversity. We believe that while education is the most powerful tool for transforming lives, it is also a tool for creating a sustainable planet. Thus, we were not only sensitizing fishing communities, community leaders and local government officials on the threats to biodiversity and its consequences, but were also encouraging them to actively conserve critically endangered Haplochromis Argenteus fish species. The second approach involved establishing sanctuaries and breeding ponds for the multiplication of Haplochromis Argenteus fish species. Using this approach, we established the first fish sanctuary and multiplication site in the country. These multiplication ponds definitely increased the population of Haplochromis Argenteus and saved it from extinction.
During project implementation, we noticed that fish species multiply at a very high rate because the population of Haplochromis Argenteus fish species in the breeding ponds quickly increased. Thus, conservation partners targeting endangered cichlid fish species should use this inherent stimulus in fish to quickly increase their populations. Secondly, we noted that while increase in population is the desired target, it comes with a cost. Increased population implies increased feeding costs and thus conservation partners must budget accordingly to avoid breeding stunted fish species. All in all, our learning is that fish conservation partners must take advantage of the fast multiplication rates of fish species to save them from extinction. Secondly, during our sensitization meetings, we noted that most communities are not enlightened. Most workshop participants revealed that they had never comprehended a situation where fish species face extinction!! They thought that fish which is one of the stocks supplied by Mother Nature will never face extinction. What this means is that partners should never assume that communities or even perpetrators of unsustainable fishing methods are aware of their negative consequences to biodiversity. Thus, educating communities and perpetrators of the vice, holds a key to successful biodiversity conservation. Above all building partnerships with communities and perpetrators without pointing fingers at or blaming the latter yields tangible results.
COVID19 remained the greatest challenge to our species conservation efforts. Due to COVID19, costs of fish feeds skyrocketed due to increased costs of importing quality feeds into the country. Thus, feeding fish in the breeding ponds increasingly became costly. The second challenge was and still is the shortage of water in the breeding fish ponds attributable to the prolonged drought which has and continues to affect Teso region. Due to the prolonged drought, most water sources in the region have either dried or have very little water. The drought has not spared the water source which supplies water to the breeding fish ponds. Although we tried to establish alternative source of water, our efforts were made futile by the underlying hard rock which could not be broken by manual methods of drilling. To alleviate this problem, we plan to drill a deep water well that will supply water to the breeding ponds as soon as funds are available. The other challenge facing biodiversity conservation is ignorance among fishing communities. Most fishermen think that fish resources are unlimited! Accordingly, education, sensitization and their active participation in biodiversity conservation hold the key to successful biodiversity conservation. Limited financial resources during project implementation was also a major challenge. While our plan was to establish a monitoring mechanism to ensure adherence to sustainable fishing methods, this was not done due to inadequacy of funds.