Aspects of the fishery and biology of the African Catfish Clarias Gariepinus (Burchell, 1822) amidst environmental changes in Lake Wamala (Uganda)
Environmental changes are some of the factors that affect fisheries and biological characteristics of fishes. The African catfish Clarias gariepinus (Burchell, 1822) has biological characteristics that enable it to persist under various stressful environmental conditions. However, few studies have examined how the African catfish responds to conditions created by a changing climate. The study examined some of the fishery and biological characteristics of African catfish in Lake Wamala (Uganda) to provide an understanding of their response to changing climatic conditions using data for the period 1950 - 2013. Temperature around the lake increased by 0.02ºC/year since 1980, commensurate with the regional trend, while rainfall was above average since 1996, except in 2004 and 2008. Lake depth was strongly positively correlated with rainfall (r =0.83, n= 6, p<0.05) up to 2000, after which, lake depth decreased amidst increase in rainfall. The contribution of African catfish increased from 20% to 85% and 17% to 78% respectively to commercial and experimental catches respectively between 1975 and 2013 despite the decrease in lake depth. The modal total length, condition factor, food, and fecundity did not change. Only size at first maturity decreased from 37.5 to 30 cm TL in females and 39.5 to 34.2 cm TL in males between 1999/2000 and 2012/2013. The biological characteristics of the African catfish were comparable with those of the same species in other lakes and remained relatively stable. The results suggested that the African catfish has the capacity to persist and/or adjust appropriately under conditions created by climate variability and change, and if properly managed, can sustain the fisheries of Lake Wamala.