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FAO, MAAIF prepare against tilapia lake virus threat

FILE PHOTO: Tilapia fish

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Agriculture, Animal industry and Fisheries Ministry has partnered with the Food and Agriculture Organization- FAO to mitigate the threat of the Tilapia Lake Virus- TiLV. The virus, which causes high mortalities in Nile Tilapia, was first identified in Israel in 2012.

The virus has been confirmed in eight countries in Asia, Africa and South America. Some sub clinical infections are said to have been detected in the Tanzanian and Ugandan basins of Lake Victoria. Hussein Mutongo, a fisherman at Ssenyondo landing site in Bunjako Island in Mpigi District, says they have heard of a ‘dangerous’ fish disease from their counterparts in Kenya.

Mutungo says they inquired from fisheries officials about the disease but they dismissed it as ‘mere stories’ created by people with intentions of sabotaging the fish market. “Anything that attacks fish worries a lot since it is threatening our livelihoods yet the fish stocks have been improving following the successful fight against illegal fishing by soldiers. However, fishery officials have since told us to ignore the claims,” Mutongo told Uganda Radio Network.

Although the authorities in the Fisheries Directorate emphasize that the virus hasn’t been confirmed in Africa’s largest Lake, they confirm ongoing investigations by a select committee comprising of experts from Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, Angola, Ghana and Nigeria mobilised by FAO.

Dr. Edward Rukunya, the Director of Fisheries Resources in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries, says on top of the investigations there are other studies and mitigation measures being put in place to ensure the dangerous virus doesn’t catch the country unawares.

Rukunya says the Agriculture Ministry and FAO have embarked on strengthening research laboratories at the Fisheries Institute and Makerere University with the necessary equipment and train technical persons in bio-security matters. He says under the same program the ministry will disseminate information regarding the virus to district fisheries officials and farmers.

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