Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Saprolegnia, a fungal disease affecting catfish in Uganda has killed several fish in their ponds.
According to information from the Aquatic Research and Development Centre (ARDC) in Kajjansi, Wakiso district, in 2018/ 2019, the national fish hatchery at Kajjansi hatched only 200,000 tons of catfish fingerlings out of the one million tons set annual target.
In 2017/2018 financial year, the hatchery-produced 1.2 million tons of fish. Each fingerling costs 500 Shillings which means the national hatchery lost billions of shillings to the saprolegnia fungal disease.
Catherine Agoe, a pathologist for aquatic animal health at Aquatic Research and Development Centre (ARDC) says the fungal epidemic spread among fish ponds since January 2018, raising the mortality of catfish from 20% to 70%.
She says that the fungal disease attacks fish hatcheries causing fish to die and eggs to become infertile.
Agoe says all the 20 national fish hatcheries have been affected leading to less supply of catfish demanded in fish farms in Uganda.
Uganda has close to 200 registered fish farmers who have been hit by a deficit supply of catfish by 70% in the last year.
Ali Kiyaga, a catfish farmer in Luweero district says the saprolegnia fungal disease attacked his catfish two years ago but had always confused it to be a virus disease and did not know how to treat it or even prevent the fish from getting infected.
Kiyaga says the fungal disease kills fish and also attacks fish eggs to deny any new fingerlings from hatching. The fish also develops internal bleeding and ulcers on the skin, loses appetite and dies.
Ben Serugga, a fish farmer in Gayaza, Wakiso district also lost several catfish to the saprolegnia fungal disease. He got the disease after sharing fish fingerlings for breeding and equipment from one of his colleague’s fish farm. He lost close to 20,000 catfish fingerlings in the last two years before he consulted a specialist from National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFFIRI) in Jinja.
Dr Richard Ogutu Ohwayo, a researcher at NaFFIRI says several fish farmers have suffered from catfish stocks dying from saprolegnia fungal disease. The disease is spread through equipment used in fish ponds, infected footwear from farmers and the water. Farmer should disinfect their footwear, treat the fish pond equipment, water, fishnets and fish pond walls.