Declining stocks of Lake Tana's endemic Barbus species flock (Pisces, Cyprinidae): natural variation or human impact?

M. de Graaf, M.A.M. Machiels, T. Wudneh, F.A. Sibbing

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29 Citations (Scopus)


The only remaining species flock of endemic, large cyprinid fishes is found in Lake Tana, Ethiopia. A monthly experimental trawl program was conducted in 1991-1993 and 1999-2001, sampling 12 stations distributed over three habitats differing in depth and distance to shore. The aim was to compare the total abundance, spatial distribution and proportion of juveniles of the most common Barbus species in the Bahar Dar Gulf between both periods. We found a sharp reduction (75%) in total abundance, both in number and biomass of the Barbus species and even more (90%) in the number of juveniles between the two periods. However, the spatial distribution of the different Barbus species over the three habitats had not changed. High natural variability in fish stocks might be expected in environmentally unstable lakes. Although strongly pulsed (seasonal), Lake Tana is a relatively stable system. No major differences were found in abiotic parameters in 1990s that could have caused the dramatic changes in abundance. The most likely explanation is the negative impact of the motorised, commercial gillnet fishery targeting the spawning aggregations of these barbs. The drastic decline in juveniles points especially towards serious recruitment over-fishing. The results stress the need for the immediate development of a sound management plan focussing on fishing effort restrictions during the Bat-bus breeding season. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-287
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • ethiopia
  • ecology
  • africa
  • fishes

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