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Lake Profile


General Information

Description Lake Victoria is the world’s second largest freshwater lake measured by surface area and the eighth largest lake by volume. It is the largest freshwater lake in the developing world. Tragically, Victoria has suffered the highest rate of vertebrate species extinction recorded for any lake ecosystem, with approximately 200 fish species being driven into extinction since 1960.

Lake Victoria, through its single outlet to the north, the Victoria Nile, is a lifeline to Sudan and Egypt. The lake touches the Equator in its northern reaches. The countries of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, border the lake and control 49%, 45%, and 6% of the lake surface, respectively.

Country Kenya
Latitude -1° 0' 0" (-1.0000)
Longitude 33° 0' 0" (33.0000)
Lake Region African Great Lakes
River Basin Nile


 Victoria global index map (LakeNet Explorer)
 Largest Lakes in the World by Area (LakeNet Explorer 2004)
 Largest Lakes of the World by Volume (LakeNet Explorer 2004)
 Victoria locator map
 Uganda Lakes Locator Map
 Lakes of East Africa
 Africa Lake Biodiversity Conservation Priorities 2003
 Ancient Lakes of the World
 Lake Basin Management Initiative (LakeNet Explorer)

Physical Characteristics

Description Lake Victoria has a shoreline of approximately 3,500 km.
Volume 2,760.00 km3
Surface Area 68,870.00 km2
Depth Mean depth: 40.0 m
Maximum depth: 80.0 m
Residence Time 21.0 years
Age 10,000 - 99,999 years before present
Origin Tectonic
Type Fresh
Catchment Catchment size: 193,000.00 km2
Catchment/surface area ratio: 3:1


Economic Value Lake Victoria supports what may be the most productive freshwater fishery in the world. Annual fish yields exceed 500,000 tons, with a value of $400 million.

The lake's fisheries are currently dominated by three commercial species: the Nile perch, tilapia and dagaa. The Nile perch has a lucrative market abroad, particularly in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Over 80 per cent of the fish in Lake Victoria is the Nile perch, a non-native species introduced in the lake a few decades ago. Tilapia is the only indigenous fish species left as food for the local communities in Mwanza region and many parts of Tanzania.

In addition to fishing, economic activities in the basin include agriculture, livestock, forestry, tourism, floriculture, hydropower generation, and transport. Crops grown in the watershed include maize, cotton, sisal, tobacco, beans, sugarcane, and coffee.

The human population in the catchment has been increasing at the rate of 3%-4% per year.

Major Cities
Population 20,000,000 (1992)

Watershed Management

Issues For years, Lake Victoria has struggled with massive invasive water hyacinth populations that blocked boats, made fishing difficult and caused disease. Weevil introduction programs, naturally changing water levels, wave action, and mechanical harvesting efforts appear to have significantly reduced water hyacinth populations, but hyacinths are still a problem on parts of the lake.

Phosphorus sedimentation has doubled over the last century and is probably mainly responsible for 7-fold increases in algae communities since the mid 1960's. Blue-green algaes began forming large dense pathces on the lake surface in the mid 1980's, and may be the cause of fish kills in the lake's open waters.

Invasive Species Pervasive
Other Issues Fisheries
Nutrient pollution
Invasive Species
Polluted runoff
Watershed habitat alteration
Specific Contaminants Pesticides
Monitoring Programs In-Lake
Water Quality

Biodiversity Conservation

Description Most of the native fish fauna of the lake lived between two million and ten thousand years ago in the west-flowing rivers that later flooded to form the lake. Fish in the lake experienced explosive speciation, particularly among the haplochromine cichlids. Tragically, the Lake Victoria fauna, which took 14,000 ears to evolve, has been decimated in only 30 years. The lake lost an estimated 200 endemic cichlid species following the introduction of non-native Nile perch in the early 1960s (Barel 1991). Source: Ntiba, M.J. et al. (2001)
Designations LakeNet Biodiversity Priority
WWF Global 200
Species of Concern
Species Richness High
Endemism High
Invasive Species Level Pervasive
Biological Distinctiveness Globally outstanding


Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project
Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization
Friends of Lake Victoria (Osienala)

LakeNet Programs

World Lake Basin Management Initiative
International Waters Learning Exchange and Resource Network
Lake99 Workshop: Managing the Great Lakes of the World, Implementing the Watershed Approach
LBMI Regional Experience Sharing and Review Workshop for Africa


LakeNet News, Winter 2003-2004 (PDF)  Newsletter. Final. English. 12/20/2003.
Lakes & Reservoirs: Research and Management, Special Issue edited by LakeNet, Volume 6:3  (PDF) Announcement. Blackwell Science-Asia. 7/31/2001.
Managing Lake Basins for Sustainable Use - Lake Basin Management Initiative Final Report (PDF)  Project Report. Final. English. 2/27/2006.
Managment issues in the Lake Victoria watershed  Case Study. Final. Lakes and Reservoirs- Research and Management. 9/1/2004.
Victoria  Experience Brief. Final. Kayombo et al. 2/27/2006.


African Lakes and Rivers Research Group
Beyond boundaries: regional overview of transboundary natural resource management in Eastern Africa (2001)
Biodiversity Conservation of the World's Lakes: A Preliminary Framework for Identifying Priorities
Chemical Composition of Great African Lakes
Conservation & the Lake Victoria Basin: the role of North American zoos & aquariums (1995)
Crop Explorer - Global Reservoir and Lake Elevation Monitoring
Crop Explorer - Lake Level Variations from TOPEX/POSEIDON and Jason-1 Altimetry for Lake Victoria
ILEC Database
Key elements of fisheries management on Lake Victoria
Lacustrine Rift Basin Research Program
Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO)
Management issues in the Lake Victoria watershed
Nile River Basin map & information
Program on the Lakes of East Africa (PLEA)
Sustainable management of the African Great Lakes: science for development?
Synodontis afrofischeri species summary, FishBase
UNU/INWEH to Help Monitor Water Quality in Lake Victoria
World Wildlife Fund Global 200 - Rift Valley Lakes


1/21/2010 - Future Wars Could Be Fought Over Lakes, Rivers
2/9/2006 - Uganda accused of 'pulling plug' on disappearing waters of Lake Victoria
1/27/2005 - Parliamentary team in Uganda to address harassment of fishermen
1/19/2005 - Lake Victoria Sale Blocked By EAC Rules
1/6/2005 - MPs Reject Sh8b Plan for Lake Victoria Fish
11/17/2004 - Lake Victoria: Fishermen Call for an End to Lake Conflicts
10/21/2004 - Tanzania Receives Assistance for the Environmental Management of Lake Victoria
10/14/2004 - 13 Ugandan fishermen drown in Lake Victoria
9/28/2004 - Lake Victoria Not Indian Ocean But ...
9/19/2004 - Lake Victoria Not About to Dry Up
8/27/2004 - Alarm As Lake Victoria's Water Level Falls
8/17/2004 - Lake Victoria Fish Stock Diminishes
6/8/2004 - Nakivubo Wetland Most Polluted
4/23/2004 - Towards a Lake Basin Management Initiative
2/26/2004 - Beetle Winning War on Weed
12/6/2003 - Bulago Island is quite seductive
12/1/2003 - AIDs hurting Uganda's fish output
12/1/2003 - East African states sign deal on Lake Victoria basin
11/24/2003 - Women fish traders in Kenya to get training
11/20/2003 - Fishermen around Lake Victoria lost sh4 billion due to lack of facilities and middlemen
11/13/2003 - High fish death rates in Lake Victoria explained; problem areas detailed
11/7/2003 - EU finances Lake Victoria management
10/8/2003 - Lake Doomed Over Harmful Fishing Gear, Warns Munyao
10/6/2003 - New fund to benefit lake women
9/16/2003 - New World Bank study highly critical of efforts to protect Lake Victoria
9/1/2003 - Report unveils origin of pollution in Lake Victoria Basin
8/26/2003 - Entrust Lake Victoria to East African Community, MP urges
7/29/2003 - Floating hotel for Lake Victoria?
7/14/2003 - Fishermen oppose efforts to privatize Lake Victoria beaches
7/9/2003 - Uganda gets loan to finance cage fish farms on Lake Victoria and Lake Albert
6/23/2003 - Government vows to end Lake Victoria pollution
4/28/2003 - Africa's first filming aquarium
2/18/2003 - Plans made in Uganda to lease areas of Lake Victoria for caged aquaculture
2/10/2003 - Crackdown on taking of immature fish in Uganda's lakes causing controversy
1/29/2003 - Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda agree on action plan & info exchange to curb illegal and unregulated fishing on Lake Victoria
1/27/2003 - Sida to fund Lake Victoria research projects
1/20/2003 - Alarm over water weed threat to shipping
1/20/2003 - Lake Victoria project to face probe
12/17/2002 - The fisherwoman of Kasenyi - sustainable fishing
11/21/2002 - More immature fish
11/15/2002 - Lake Victoria fisherman in greater difficulties
10/30/2002 - Two tons of illegal nets go up in flames
10/22/2002 - Slums are major sources of the waste harming Lake Victoria
10/21/2002 - Lake Victoria survey set to start
10/15/2002 - Scientists warn over mining activities
10/15/2002 - East African scientists warn over mining activities
10/12/2002 - Lake Victoria water hyacinth back with a vengeance
9/14/2002 - Fishing ban lifted on Lake Victoria, joint patrols commence
8/29/2002 - Fish production declining, warns government official
7/21/2002 - Scientists recommend a fresh look at fresh water
7/13/2002 - East African legislative assembly to formulate laws regarding Lake Victoria
7/9/2002 - Twenty tons of illegally-caught immature fish impounded by Kampala from Lake Victoria in six months
5/27/2002 - Experts call for demolition of Mbita causeway in Lake Victoria
5/25/2002 - Experts: Lake Victoria unsafe for navigation
5/25/2002 - Kampala warned that safe water may be running out due to Lake Victoria pollution
2/15/2002 - Journalists & scientists meet on Lake Victoria
2/9/2002 - Lake Victoria fish stock dwindling
11/26/2001 - Amazon plan proliferates again in African lake, causing economic peril
11/13/2001 - Coalition seeks to fix global lake problem
10/17/2001 - Kenyan official accuses Uganda of invading Lake Victoria islands
9/10/2001 - Lake Victoria fisheries: IUCN launches phase 2 of project
7/28/2000 - Peacekeepers among the shellseekers
7/17/2000 - Deforestation threatens rift valley lakes
11/8/1999 - Scientists find new culprit for lakes killer weed
11/5/1999 - Sewage pollution and deforestation blamed for resurgence of hyacinth on Lake Victoria
10/30/1998 - Fifty years ago: Dr. Leakey finds key skull near Lake Victoria
1/1/1998 - Creature from the black lagoon

Additional Data Sources

Birkett, C., and I. Mason. 1995. A new global lakes database for remote sensing programme studying climatically sensitive large lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 21 (3) 307-318.
Duker, L. and L. Borre. 2001. Biodiversity conservation of the world's lakes: a preliminary framework for identifying priorities. LakeNet Report Series Number 2. Annapolis, Maryland USA.

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