Lake Victoria illustrates one of the quintessential dilemmas of today’s world: how much short-term gain can humans continue to eek out of a system that is being driven to a potential breaking point? Despite pollution from agriculture and mining and sewage, altered water flows from dam building, invasive fishes and plants, and the pressure of millions of people living on its shores, Lake Victoria continues to produce nearly 1 million tons of fish each year that contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the economies of Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya.
Nile perch is an important export commodity, while Nile tilapia and dagaa are important sources of local food security. And then there are the cichlids: small, colorful fish found in hobbyist aquariums around the world, that are incredibly important to the health of Lake Victoria, and whose evolutionary history is as marvelous as Darwin’s finches. But fish catch has stagnated while the human population, and hence the number of people fishing and eating fish around the lake, continues to increase rapidly.