, Volume 81, Issue 2, pp 127-139

The invasion of an introduced predator, Nile perch (Lates niloticus, L.) in Lake Victoria (East Africa): chronology and causes

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Abstract

Nile perch, a large predatory fish, was introduced into Lake Victoria in 1954. The upsurge of Nile perch in Lake Victoria was first observed in the Nyanza Gulf, Kenya, in 1979. In Ugandan waters this occurred 2–3 years later and in the Tanzanian Mwanza Gulf 4–5 years later. At the beginning of the upsurge in the Mwanza Gulf in 1983/1984 only sub-adult and adult fishes were found. The first juveniles appeared in 1985, suggesting that the initial increase of Nile perch was mainly caused by migration of sub-adults and adults. Shortly after the onset of trawl fishery in the area in 1973, haplochromines in the Mwanza Gulf started to decline. The final disappearance of the haplochromines, in 1987, only occurred after the Nile perch boom, and despite the abandoning of the haplochromine fishery in 1986. We hypothesize that the decline of haplochromines decreased predation on and competition with juvenile Nile perch and then facilitated survival of these juveniles. Consequently the immigration of sub-adult and adult Nile perch in an area may have paved the way for successful recruitment. Over-exploitation of haplochromine cichlids in the 1970s in the Nyanza Gulf, where the Nile perch upsurge was first observed, may have played a similar role.