‘Thousands of livelihoods destroyed’ after masses of fish die in Kenya's Lake Victoria

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Kenyan fish cage farmers in Lake Victoria have suffered enormous losses following the death of their fish stock in early November, which experts have attributed to upwelling and pollution. Images circulating online and sent to us by our Observers show thousands of lifeless fish in cages in Lake Victoria. More than 364 million fish are believed to have died, with an estimated value of 1.4 billion Kenyan shillings (equivalent to 11 million euros).

Our Observer, Ian Omondi Otieno, is a fisherman in Kisumu, a city that borders Lake Victoria. He told us he had been saving to buy a fish cage for five years and finally bought one for 370,000 Kenyan shillings (3,000 euros) earlier this year. He had been hoping to make some profit. But all he has now is dead stock that has set him back the equivalent of thousands of euros.

'Fishing is the backbone of our economy'

At the beginning of November, I went out to the lake and found lots of fish floating on the surface, dead. Others had been washed up on the shores. It’s a tragedy. Thousands of fish have died, and that’s just on our side of the lake. For other communities around Lake Victoria, it has been even worse.

The situation is causing a huge amount of stress, thousands of livelihoods have been destroyed. I saw one fisherman crying uncontrollably after discovering the loss of all the fish in his cage. He tried to commit suicide.

Fishing is the main source of income in my town. Around 90 percent of our population depend on fish, it is the backbone of our economy.

Ian Omondi Otieno also believes that pollution is to blame.