Ecology and fish catches in natural lakes of Benin, West Africa
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A preliminary study of the ecology and commercial fish catches was carried out in the Toho-Todougba, Ahouangan and Dati lakes (1500 ha) in southern Benin (West Africa) over a period of 18 consecutive months. Water quality, species richness, and the reproductive biology of the dominant species, Sarotherodon galilaeus, were examined. Unlike Lagoon Toho-Todougba, lakes Ahouangan and Dati are less favourable for fish production because of their high total iron content and their relative low pH. The study revealed the existence of 19 species belonging to eleven (11) families: 16 species in Lagoon Toho-Todougba,12 in Lake Ahouangan, and 7 in Lake Dati. Lakes Ahouangan and Dati had a relatively high faunal similarity whereas Lagoon Toho-Todougba exhibited a relatively low faunal similarity with the former systems. In Lagoon Toho-Todougba, six cichlid species were the most important component of the fishery: Sarotherodon galilaeus, Tilapia guineensis, T. zillii, T. mariae, Chromidotilapia guntheri, Hemichromis fasciatus. Three catfish species Chrysichthys auratus, Clarias agboyiensis, and Clarias lazera were harvested in low abundances. Some other fish, such as Polypterus senegalus senegalus, Protopterus annectens and Heterotis niloticus were captured sporadically, with H. niloticus appearing more consistently in catches than the others. Although not abundant, Gymnarchus niloticus and the African pike, Hepsetus odoe, were almost always present in the catches. Ctenopoma kingsleyae appeared only in Ahouangan. Some predatory species, such as Notopterus afer and Xenomystus nigri, are encountered only in lakes Ahouangan and Dati. In Lagoon Toho-Todougba, Sarotherodon galilaeus had a sex ratio (♂: ♀) of 0.49:1, and size at maturation was estimated as 12.3 cm TL. The spawning period extended from May to September with the peak occurring in July. Fecundity was correlated to log-body length (r = 0.74) and log-body weight (r = 0.76). Fish catches were estimated at 389 kg ha−1 year−1; about 73% of which was Sarotherodon galilaeus. The overexploitation of juvenile fish and the use of this lagoon for the irrigation of palm tree plantations have reduced fish recruitment and mean size.
Key wordsFisheries Irrigation Reproductive seasonality Sarotherodon galilaeus Species richness Water quality
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