The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has set up a committee to investigate the reported outbreak of the Tilapia Lake Virus in Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake shared by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
Tilapia Lake Virus is a deadly disease that threatens fish stocks, both farmed and wild.
Jacob Olwo, program officer of fisheries and aquaculture at FAO Uganda, told reporters at a media dialogue on Tuesday that the committee comprises of experts from six African countries — Uganda, Kenya, Angola, Egypt, Nigeria and Ghana.
Olwo said the committee was formed to investigate reports by some scientists that the disease had broken out in some countries in Africa.
He said the committee, which comprises of scientists from FAO, Kampala-based Makerere University and ministry of agriculture, will investigate reports that the disease had already reached Lake Victoria.
He said the team will find out whether there is an outbreak in Lake Victoria and also draw plans on how the disease can be tackled in case the outbreak is confirmed.
“We need to have an action plan for any emergency of such nature. This can only be implemented when you have a surveillance plan. The surveillance which we are going to have for Uganda is to ensuring that monitoring is being done in key farms when such an emergency occurs,” he said.
He said the virus only attacks tilapia and not human beings.
Olwo said some countries in Asia such as Thailand and the Philippines, which are big aquaculture producing countries, have experienced the wrath of the virus.
Tilapia is one of the major fish species consumed in Uganda. Fisheries, according to FAO, contribute 12 percent of Uganda’s agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) and supplie 50 percent of animal proteins consumed in the east African country.