Darwin’s Nightmare

One year ago, I went to a local fish restaurant with some fellow students and I ordered “Victoria Perch”, a speciality from my girlfriend’s home country, Tanzania. Afterwards, I proudly told her about it, and I was sure in doing something good while supporting Tanzania’s export. But she became furious, and after a discussion, we watched the film “Darwin’s Nightmare”, which deals with the fishing industry around Lake Victoria.

Read a short summary of the plot

As I was watching this film I became aware that I did not only support the economy of Tanzania, but also civil war in Congo and smuggling of arms, unscrupulous fish factory owners and exploitation of workers, pollution of Lake Victoria and extinction of native fish species, prostitution and spreading of AIDS etc.
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I could go on with further social and environmental impacts.

It is a vicious circle and an ethical decision: Like in other comparable examples before we have the situation of the peoples’ total dependencies to an industry in terms of their livelihood.

Is the only solution in this case a boycott of “Victoria Perch”? Or would not a decrease of consumers’ demand aggravate the poverty in one of the world’s poorest countries? What can Tanzania’s government do about it? How can non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) help?

Plenty of questions to a multifaceted problem!

It is impossible to regain the state of origin. All that can be done are measures to diminish the suffering, e.g. by giving the workers more rights and better payment, by involving organisations and the church into the issues of orphans and prostitution, by disposing industrial waste properly, by fighting crime like smuggling.

Another big problem is the danger that Lake Victoria could capsize within the next 50 – 100 years caused by humans’ intervention into Mother Nature. Thus, the government should think about a way out of this dilemma by settling new industries in this area to intercept the millions of people dependent on the lake. However, it is visible that the Tanzania’s government is not ready yet to take the right measures. This is made clear by the comment made by J. Kikwete, President of Tanzania: “The documentary is an insult to our country and the people of the lake zone as it does not depict the true nature of the business.”
As you can see it is a hard long road out of this dilemma.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in ecological degradation, economic development, government policy
5 comments on “Darwin’s Nightmare
  1. Susanne says:

    The introduction of the Lake Victoria Perch (Nile Perch) into the Victorian Sea is one example of the biological invasions which does not only destroy the eco-system (e.g. decrease of biodiversity), but which creates economic damages of billions of dollars. All species that are introduced by human action into a territory where they do not originate from and where they cause ecological change are called invasive species. Those invasive species include the Chinese Mitten Crab, the Zebra Mussel, or the Lionfish, but also dogs, cats or certain types of snakes. The economic and environmental impacts are in fact so severe and extensive that many associations and initiatives were created to fight the consequences of the biological invasion.
    The damages are various. In terms of the eco-system Pimentel et al. (2004) argues, for example, that about 80 % of the endangered species could suffer losses from invasive
    If you want to have full insight to the report of Pimental, click on the URL below:
    Facts and figures on invasive species:

  2. adrian says:

    It might be true that people living around the Lake Victiroria area depend on the fish industry. However, the United Republic of Tanzania does not seem to be highly dependent on it. The main export-commodities are gold, coffee, cashew nuts, and cotton.

  3. Sven1 says:

    And exactly this could be a reason why the government doesn’t want to deal with this issue. Maybe if the Victoria Perch was more important for the economy the politicians would cope with the problems around Lake Victoria.
    What do you think?

  4. Susanne says:

    The fish industry in Tanzania might not be important to the government in terms of export volume. However, it is very important for the country itself since this industry is the livelihood of the Tanzanians. It is the most important industry in Africa. More than 200 Million Africans nourish on fish. In Tanzania fish represents 30% of the total intake for the population. (http://www.tanzania.go.tz/naturalresources.html)
    The introduction of the Nile perch was an important gain for the region; however it did not bring any advantages for the people: “The proceeds from Nile perch sales remain an important economic engine in the region, but the resulting wealth is very poorly distributed” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Victoria). Before the Nile perch was introduced to the Victoria Sea, more than 500 different species of fish lived in the sea. By now, the Nile perch has changed the eco-system and hundreds of other fish types have disappeared. The majority of the Tanzanians have already lost their livelihood.

  5. jeremy says:

    Ultimately, the eco-system of the lake could collapse as diversity diminishes, with the effect that the perch could die as well. Sadly, there are many stories like this one. The cane toad was introduced into far north Queensland in Australia with similar consequences.

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