Authored by Brad Czerniak

In the face of stagnating wild fisheries in Lake Victoria and a rapidly growing human population, aquaculture may improve food and livelihood security in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Very recently, cages for farming the introduced Nile tilapia have been popping up on the lake at a rapid rate. While cage culture could provide food and income, there are many pressing questions: What will be the physical impact of cages on the lake's limnology? Will there be adverse effects for wild populations? Will farmed tilapia become a significant export commodity and, if so, will this create food insecurity around the lake? The coupled human and natural system described here explores ecosystem services by linking human food security and wild fisheries through physical and economic changes brought about by escalating cage aquaculture. Researchers introduce an ecosystem services model, MIMES, that explores the potential trade-offs of cage culture. Scenario analysis is nascent, but early results show damage from cages can be minimized. Cage construction could negatively affect lake biodiversity if cages are sited in sensitive areas such as breeding grounds. However, cichlids and other rare species currently appear to thrive around cages that act as aggregating devices and sources of food. Ultimately, cage culture management could minimize the threats to the lake's ecosystem services with strong scientific guidance and effective enforcement.