Stratification restricts habitable areas forcing fish to balance between favourable temperature and minimum dissolved oxygen requirements. Acoustic surveys conducted during the stratified and isothermal periods on tropical Lake Victoria indicated that stratification of temperature and dissolved oxygen (DO) affected vertical distribution of Nile perch. There was higher mean temperature (25.6 ± 0.5 °C) and lower DO (6.4 ± 1.8 mg/l) during stratified period compared to the isothermal period (mean temperature 24.9 ± 0.3 °C; mean DO 7.3 ± 0.6 mg/l). Higher mean densities of Nile perch were recorded in the coastal (0.44 ± 0.03) and deep (0.27 ± 0.02 g/m3) strata during the stratified compared to the isothermal season (coastal: 0.24 ± 0.01; deep: 0.12 ± 0.02 g/m3). In addition, Nile perch density in the upper 0–40 m depth layers in the coastal and deep strata increased by over 50% from the isothermal to the stratified season. Daily landings from 65 motorised fishing boats between October 2008 and September 2010 show higher mean catch (26.29 ± 0.17 kg/boat/day) during stratified compared to the isothermal (23.59 ± 0.15) season. Thermal stratification apparently compresses the habitat available to Nile perch and can potentially result in higher exploitation. Managers should evaluate the potential benefits of instituting closed seasons during the stratified period, and stock assessment models should take into account the seasonal niche compression.
Additional publication details
Distribution and exploitation of Nile perch Lates niloticus in relation to stratification in Lake Victoria, East Africa