Books: Field guide to the fish species of the Volta Lake, Ghana & A catalogue of small scale fishing gear of the Volta Lake , Ghana

The Volta Lake is the largest man-made lake in Africa with a surface area of 87,700 m2. It is one of Ghana’s major sources of protein and livelihood for about 300,000 fisher folks of which 72,000 of them are professional fishermen who eke out a living fishing on the lake.

Although fishing has been going on in the lake nearly six decades, not much information and data has been documented on the Lake to inform decision making for sustainable management of the country’s rich water resource.

To fill the void, one of the leading experts in fisheries in the West Africa subregion, Dr Lawrence Issah Braimah, who has worked as coordinator of many large donor-funded programmes for the World Bank, UNDP, DFID and draws on his wide range of experience in the fishery sector to document vital information on the Volta Lake into the ‘twin-book’ that come in handy.

The books serve as practical and reliable guide for the national fishery workers and source of reference for universities who find them very useful in teaching, learning and research in aquatic and fisheries sciences.

The avow aim is to help in the sustainable management of the fish resource in the Lake.

The 107-page “Field guide to the fish species of the Volta Lake, Ghana” identifies, with illustrations, 29 families and 134 species of bony fishes.

The author gives a brief insight into the Volta Lake, noting that after 55 years of the formation of the lake, the commercial fish landing which are dominated by the tilapiine species (Talapia family).

The highest yield of the Lake, as documented by the author was 62,000t, which was realised in 1969, five years after the dam closure.

This declined to 36,000t and stabilised around the maximum sustainable yield of 41,000 t. Since the 1980s fish catch in the Volta Lake has not been stabled due to disturbance, ostensibly by fishing pressure, resulting in fish landing declining to 28,000 t in 1998.

The book is segmented into two sections; a general section on the technical terms followed by the illustrations of the different families of the important fish species in the Lake, their botanical names and synonyms, their sizes, their habitat and the recommended fishing gear.

All these are botanical names recognised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

To spice the book to make it friendly to local communities, the author documents the local names of the various fish species as known among the Ada, Ewe, Gonja, Hausa and Nchummuru fishing communities. 

In the 76-page twin book “A catalogue of small scale fishing gear of the Volta Lake, Ghana”, Dr Braimah introduces the location and morphology and the fisheries of the Volta Lake as well as the evolution and diversification of the fisheries across the fishing zone over time.

In the the second section of the book, he details the methods adopted for the presentation of the design drawings in consonance with the FAO catalogue of small-scale fishing gear.

The third section describes the mode of operation and specification of the various types of fishing gear and detailed design drawings which were thoroughly investigated.

In all, 21 design drawings of the main classified fishing gear have been documented with photographs showing the vital characteristics of the fishing gear.

Additional, design drawings and photographs have been documented to emphasise either the mode of operation of the fishing gear or to enhance credibility.

The catalogue reveals the level of psychic, ingenuity and skills of the fishermen of the lake and also provides the basis for the understanding the species of fish caught and why they are caught by certain gear types and not others to facilitate the effective and prudent management of the Volta Lake resource.

One of the fascinating aspect of the book is the documentation of mosquito net as one of the fish harvesting equipment in the Volta Lake.   

It is the humble view of the reviewer that the use of Mosquito net as fish harvesting equipment must not be sacrificed for malaria prevention and control.

The books are interesting reading, though the botanical names of the fishes are mouth full. The books are largely illustrative with the text kept in simply language thus making it reader friendly to the ordinary man.

Undoubtedly, the book is useful not only to the fishery fraternity but any other persons who wants to add to their wealth of knowledge.

So, therefore, grab your copy from any leading bookshop and have an appetising reading of your favourite fishes and what you require to go fish them out.

Author: Dr Lawrence Issah Braimah

Publisher: Lambert Academic Publishing

Reviewer: Salifu Abdul-Rahaman

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