Synthesizing indigenous and scientific knowledge for conservation and co-management of small-scale fisheries in Uganda (Kalangala and Wakiso Districts)
The lake Victoria fishery is facing ecological stress with many indigenous species declining and some close to extinction. Despite the current application of scientific and modern management options, little has been achieved to address the ecological degradation of the lake Victoria fishery and the entire ecosystem. The introduction of Beach Management Units (BMUs) to harness the local fishers’ input under a co-managerial framework has not fully attained its expected outcomes. The present study, therefore, examines local fishers’ knowledge on; (i) the biology and ecology of the declining indigenous species; (ii) impact of the traditional and modern fishing gears and practices on the fishery; and (iii) the role of ethno-cosmology and traditional belief systems to strengthen the management of the fishery. The study used semi-structured interviews and case histories to collect data from active and veteran fishers. Results reveled that local fishers were knowledgeable on the extrinsic aspects of the fish species such as, fish morphology, habitats, migratory patterns, and feeding and breeding habits. However, fishers had limited knowledge on intrinsic variables such as spawning frequency, age of maturity, disease and sex differentiation. Further, it was noted traditional fishing gears and practices were environmental sensitive and promoted sustainable fishing and conservation. Moreover, ethno-cosmologies and traditional beliefs guided sustainable exploitation and conservation of the fisheries resources. It was concluded that the integration of indigenous and scientific knowledge can led to the restoration of the indigenous fish species threatened with depletion. The study recommended the creation of species-specific local-level conservations schemes under a co-managerial arrangement between local fishers, fisheries managers and scientists. The schemes were considered instrument in the restoration of indigenous fish species.