The Redlist of the fishes in Uganda Launched

The National Fisheries Resources Research Institute, NaFIRRI, together with partners Busetima University, MAAIF, and NUGSOFT Technologies, have launched the national red list for the fishes of Uganda. The project is housed at NaFIRRI, and its purpose is to ensure data usability in Uganda. Speaking during the launch on March 21, 2023, the Ag Director of Fisheries at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries (MAAIF), Mr. Tom Bukenya, in his remarks, said the ministry had a mission of transforming agriculture from subsistence to commercial. He said fisheries are one of the key pillars of agriculture and play a key role in the livelihoods of many Ugandans. He said there is a linkage between data access and data utilization, and that the new Fisheries and Aquaculture Act of 2023 promotes data and information sharing. It also provides for the establishment of a fisheries information management system. He thanked the development partners for the financial support.

Participants at the launch of the Redlist of the Fishes of Uganda

The national red list for fish species in Uganda has 293 species, 40 of which, or 13.3%, are threatened with extinction. Among the non-haplochromine fish species, more species (29) are threatened at the national level compared to 9 species at the global level. Approximately 43% of all assessments in the global IUCN Red List are outdated, having been published in 2010 or before. The national red list offers the latest state of conservation of fish in Uganda.

The Launch of the redlist of the fishes of Uganda: Sited Director Fisheries MAAIF Mr. Tom Bukenya, Right the Director of Research NaFIRRI Dr. Winnie Nkalubo, left Professor Wilson Mwanja of Busitema University

Each of the assessed fish species on the national red list has a distribution map. The maps provide information about where each of the species is found, including those threatened with extinction. The maps are a tool for prioritizing habitats for conservation. A substantial number of species (132) on the national red list are data deficient (DD). No record of these species within the last 30 years was confirmed. This signals that more species than are currently listed could be threatened with extinction. Threats to freshwater biodiversity are intensifying. This assessment defined 10 major threats facing aquatic ecosystems in Uganda: intensive fishing, pollution, habitat degradation, oil and gas development, weak law enforcement, river damming, eutrophication, climate change, invasive species, and hybridization.

Why the Red list of the fishes of Uganda was established

  1. Conserve threatened species

Conserve threatened species.

Forty species, or 13.3% of the assessed species, are threatened with extinction. This number is likely to increase if more data-deficient (DD) species are assessed. Conservation tools such as protected areas and biodiversity offset areas are needed to conserve these species. Conserving these species will sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services since all the threatened species are of fisheries importance, and some, such as A. baremoze, are exploited directly.

2. Establish the national red list as the benchmark for conservation and development planning processes

The global IUCN red list of threatened species is currently used in environmental and social impact assessments (ESIA) to make decisions on conservation measures associated with development projects. The new national red list addresses challenges of the application of the global red list at the national scale by, for example, updating the distribution maps and providing conservation status for many species, especially haplochromines, which either have outdated assessments or are not evaluated in the global red list. Therefore, the national red list should become the benchmark for the conservation status of the fish in Uganda. The National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), DiFR, and environmental practitioners are encouraged to adopt the national red list in the preparation, review, and approval of ESIA reports for all development projects.

3. Increase funding for aquatic biodiversity studies

Data and information gaps exist in the presence of species because, for a substantial number of species (Figure 2), presence is designated as possibly extant, presence uncertain, or possibly extant in at least part of their range. For this reason, many species are designated as data deficient on the red list (Table 1). In addition, sampling in the past has been biased toward large waterbodies, leaving out small lakes, rivers, and streams. These gaps can be addressed by targeted collections, beginning with aquatic habitats that are not well represented in existing data and species with gaps in presence and origin. These efforts require sustainable funding to be accomplished.

Figure 2: Proportion of species which have part of their range as possibly extant, presence uncertain or possibly extinct.

Issues also exist with the quality of the data and the authenticity of some records. Many records suggest occurrence of fish species beyond their known native range, yet there are no voucher specimens to ascertain the status of the species in the new localities. We recommend the establishment of a comprehensive natural history collection for aquatic species to host specimens for future reference.

4. Education and raising awareness

The national red list for the fishes of Uganda generated new information on the conservation status of the fish species, areas where they can be found, and threats faced. This information is useful in education at all levels, including in tertiary training institutions such as universities with relevant programmes such as fisheries and environmental science. The information can be used by conservation organizations and the media to increase public awareness of the plight of aquatic biodiversity in Uganda and advocate for more effective measures to conserve aquatic biodiversity.

5. Guide policy formulation and implementation

The national red list can inform decisions on formulation and implementation of national policies as well as multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) that Uganda is a signatory to. For instance, it can support the Directorate of Fisheries Resources to conduct her functions under the new fisheries and aquaculture law including but not limited to:

a) Formulating and monitoring the implementation of policies regarding the conservation, management and utilization of all fisheries and aquaculture resources.

b) Providing education to create public awareness and support for fisheries conservation, management, development, and sustainable use.


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