East Africa on verge of fish seed boom

Published on
December 13, 2019

Plans to increase East Africa’s aquaculture production have received a major boost with the fast-tracking of a marine hatchery project that has been domiciled in the semi-autonomous Indian Ocean Island nation of Zanzibar.

The project, which is supported by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is being financed by both the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the Zanzibar government, will in the coming years be expected to produce 10 million milkfish fingerlings, one million sea cucumber juveniles, and one million mud crablets annually. The project will be a major step toward addressing fish seed shortages not only in Zanzibar – which is part of Tanzania – but also other countries within the Lake Victoria basin, such as Kenya and Uganda.

According to the East African Community (EAC) – an intergovernmental organization composed of six countries in the African Great Lakes region – aquaculture production in the region remains low, contributing a mere 13.5 percent of Eastern Africa’s total fishery output.

“The main challenges include inadequate supply of quality fish fingerlings and feeds, limited extension services and limited support on credit facilities because aquaculture is considered by financial institutions to be a high-risk business,” Olivier Nduhungirehe, chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers, said during presentation of the EAC regional budget estimates for 2019/2020.

However, with the anticipated production of fingerlings at the Korea-Zanzibar Marine Hatchery Center – which has been located at the State University of Zanzibar – East Africa’s fishing and aquaculture industries are likely to expand and meet the increasing demand for quality fish both for local consumption and for export.

In Zanzibar, fingerlings are commonly collected from the wild, a practice deemed unsustainable with potential to lead to overexploitation.

But once the the ongoing Korea-Zanzibar marine hatchery project – one of East Africa’s biggest multi-species marine hatchery initiatives – becomes fully operational, it would support both Zanzibar’s and East Africa’s drive towards achieving food security by providing a sustainable supply of adequate seed fish to replenish the marine and inland fish sources.  

Photo courtesy of Nick Johanson/Shutterstock

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