Out of Sight, Out of Mind: The Fish Below the Surface in Freshwater Ecosystems

Freshwater fishes play an important part within freshwater ecosystems, yet often go overlooked when managing water as a resource. Many parts of Africa have active fisheries that support both commercial and subsistence fishers. The need to improve water security and power provision for a growing human population in the region has seen increases in direct anthropogenic impacts on freshwater ecosystems resulting in river fragmentation, alien invasive species introductions, reduced water quality, and altered flow regimes. This session highlights some of the work being done on fish within Africa and hopefully points to a way forward in how we can manage this valuable resource.

Freshwater fishes are increasingly facing pressures induced by human activities. They occur below the surface of the water and generally are out of sight and out of mind to the general public. Further, demands for water security to meet increased water needs and hydro-power to provide energy in poorly developed regions will only add to anthropogenic stressors on freshwater ecosystems. Fish biology and ecology studies are still largely lacking for Africa, with some recent studies making some strides in studying iconic freshwater fish such as African Anguilla and yellowfish. Despite this progress, there are still large knowledge gaps in understanding the movement of fishes, the value of fish to local communities, and fish responses to changes in freshwater ecosystems. In addition to water resource management, African inland fisheries contribute to the local and global economies and rely heavily on the well-being of fish stock. Managing these fisheries is becoming increasingly difficult as fish are faced with a plethora of issues from anthropogenic causes. Further, there is still little understanding of the cultural and spiritual value of fish and freshwater ecosystems to indigenous groups. This special session aims to highlight the following through current work being done around freshwater environments across Africa with an emphasis on freshwater fishes:

  • Ecological studies on freshwater fish in Africa.
  • The use of fish telemetry in understanding fish behaviour.
  • Using fish as ecological indicators when managing water resources.
  • African freshwater fish: their associated fisheries, cultural and spiritual values.

Open session – researchers and practitioners are encouraged to submit relevant presentations for inclusion in this session. Participation in the session during the Symposium is open to all. Submissions that cannot be incorporated into the session by the convener will be considered for general sessions in the remainder of the programme.

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