Widespread colonisation of Tanzanian catchments by introduced Oreochromis tilapia fishes: the legacy from decades of deliberate introduction

Asilatu Shechonge, Benjamin P. Ngatunga, Stephanie J. Bradbeer, Julia J. Day, Jennifer J. Freer, Antonia G.P. Ford, Jonathan Kihedu, Tabitha Richmond, Semvua Mzighani, Alan M. Smith, Emmanuel A. Sweke, Rashid Tamatamah, Alexandra M. Tyers, George F. Turner, Martin J. Genner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)
436 Downloads (Pure)


From the 1950s onwards, programmes to promote aquaculture and improve capture fisheries in East Africa have relied heavily on the promise held by introduced species. In Tanzania these introductions have been poorly documented. Here we report the findings of surveys of inland water bodies across Tanzania between 2011 and 2017 that clarify distributions of tilapiine cichlids of the genus Oreochromis. We identified Oreochromis from 123 sampling locations, including 14 taxa restricted to their native range and three species that have established populations beyond their native range. Of these three species, the only exotic species found was blue-spotted tilapia (Oreochromis leucostictus), while Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and Singida tilapia (Oreochromis esculentus), which are both naturally found within the country of Tanzania, have been translocated beyond their native range. Using our records, we developed models of suitable habitat for the introduced species based on recent (1960–1990) and projected (2050, 2070) East African climate. These models indicated that presence of suitable habitat for these introduced species will persist and potentially expand across the region. The clarification of distributions provided here can help inform the monitoring and management of biodiversity, and inform policy related to the future role of introduced species in fisheries and aquaculture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-253
Number of pages19
Issue number1
Early online date4 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • Aquaculture
  • Capture fisheries
  • Cichlid
  • Invasive species
  • Oreochromis
  • Tilapia


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