…and thanks for all the fish

CEPF-funded project in Ethiopia protects endemic fish species in Lake Tana

Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia with a surface area of about 3,050 km2, serves as a home to 28 fish species. These include 17 endemic Labeobarbus species, the only cyprinid species flock in the world. Lake Tana is an Eastern Afromontane freshwater KBA mainly because of these Labeobarbus fish species, of which one species (Labeobarbus macrophtalmus) is listed as "Endangered" and four other species as "Vulnerable".
The Labeobarbus fish are economically very important, supporting more than 30% of the Lake Tana fishery. However, the situation for all the fish stock in Lake Tana is not favorable. Fishing at the mouths of the tributary rivers while the endemic species migrate upstream for spawning, is a major threat. Furthermore, the development of dams on tributary rivers for irrigation prohibits the upstream migration of these fishes.

To address these problems, Addis Ababa University (AAU) is implementing a CEPF-funded project to conserve the fishes of Lake Tana and Abay Basin through breeding fishes and enhancing the water bodies. This project has enabled AAU to restore the endemic fish species through two parallel and simultaneous approaches.


The first approach promotes the artificial breeding of African Catfish (Clarias gariepinus); this helps to get fingerlings used to stock seasonal water bodies and ponds for alternative fisheries so that the fishing pressure on the endemic species shall be minimized.

The second approach focuses on simulating the natural reproduction system of the Labeobarbus species using constructed stream system that fulfills all the requirements to induce spawning. As a result, the endemic Labeobarbus species is multiplied artificially which enables AAU to get fingerlings used to enhance the Lake Tana and its tributary rivers.


The Ethiopian Postal Service, in recognition of the importance of the Labeobarbus spp., has recently launched the publication of a portrait of four of the species (1 endangered---Labeobarbus Macropthalmus and three vulnerable spp. -- L. acutirostris, L. gorguari and L. osseensis). 



So far, 42,000 Labeobarbus species and 21,000 C. gariepinus fishes have been stocked to different waterbodies around the Lake Tana sub basin since the commencement of the CEPF project in 2014. African Catfish (C. gariepinus) fingerlings stocked in 6 farmers' ponds in semi intensive culture system adapted very well and showing better growth performance compared to intensively managed ones. More C. gariepinus fingerlings will be released to the different waterbodies in the sub basin till December 2017.


In addition, AAU has been at the forefront of organizing events during the first two World Migratory Fish Days (WMFD) in 2014 and 2016. In May 2014, thousands of people marched on the streets of Bahir Dar voicing the conservation importance of the migratory fish and - specifically - the world's only remaining Labeobarbus species flock of Lake Tana. The WFMD - 2016 in Ethiopia was marked by events ranging from organizing video show on fish migration, mass sport competition (some 300 people participated in the running competition), and traditional papyrus boat paddling race (15 traditional boats) on the southern gulf of Lake Tana. The event participants included not only fishers, but also students, business people, policy makers, academicians, development partners, and regional and federal government institutions.

Enhancement and stocking of the different waterbodies with commercial species around Lake Tana sub basin have to be done at large scale. In this regard, it is time for the Ethiopian government to take the necessary action and it is an opportunity for regional and international institutions to involve in rescuing the endemic species.

Traditional papyrus boat paddling race in Lake Tana to raise awareness about the endemic fish species in the Lake (© AAU)


Story by: Alayu Yalew and Abebe Getahun (AAU), Paul Mugo (TBA) and Maaike Manten (BirdLife/RIT)
Implementer: Addis Ababa University, Department of Zoological Sciences
Project period: January 2014 - December 2017

Watch the interview of Professor Abebe Getahun of Addis Ababa University talk about the CEPF-funded project at Laka Tana on YOUTUBE


In May 2017, the Tropical Biology Association, together with the CEPF Eastern Afromontane Regional Implementation Team (EWNHS and BirdLife International), organised a training in communication skills for Ethiopian CEPF grantees. This article is one of the products that came out of that training. For other articles, click here.


See the interactive map of all projects implemented under the CEPF Eastern Afromontane Hotspot programme here.

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. More information on CEPF can be found at

BirdLife International, together with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (BirdLife in Ethiopia) form the Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) investment in the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot (2012-2017). The investment will support civil society in applying innovative approaches to conservation in under-capacitated and underfunded protected areas, Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) and priority corridors in the region.


Read more NEWS from the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot!