The Lake Victoria fishery supports c. 35 million people in the East African Community (EAC). Fisheries ecologists from the School of Biology are working with human-health and fishery partners around Lake Victoria in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya on connected, multidisciplinary projects to sustainably manage fish stocks, and to examine the potential role for ‘biocontrol’ by fish of a debilitating human parasitic infection.
Schistosomiasis is second only to malaria in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of infection. It is a disease of poverty and is prevalent in communities living in insanitary conditions close to infected waters. It infects humans when the larval parasites emerge from intermediate-host fresh-water snails to burrow through the skin. Infection is high around Lake Victoria, where lake water is used untreated for drinking, washing, cooking and bathing.
This work bolsters shallow-water fish abundance to reduce snail predation by establishing areas closed to fishing. In the marine realm, ‘spill over’ of fish from protected areas closed to fishing into the wider environment leads to improved fish catches outside closed areas. In Lake Victoria, closing areas to fishing can deliver the win-win result of increased fish for food and reduced parasitic infection. The work is providing training to build capacity in acoustic fish stock assessment and conducting health and fishery research towards the combined goals of improving food security and reducing the burden of disease.