Fish Species Occurrence Records for Uganda Mobilized from Observation Archives

Latest version published by National Fisheries Resources Research Institute on May 5, 2023 National Fisheries Resources Research Institute

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Data as a DwC-A file download 11,159 records in English (221 KB) - Update frequency: as needed
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This dataset presents fish species occurrence records for Uganda mobilized from unpublished archives. The archives accumulated from fish biodiversity surveys that scientists at the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI)conducted at different periods in most of the aquatic ecosystems of Uganda.

Data Records

The data in this occurrence resource has been published as a Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A), which is a standardized format for sharing biodiversity data as a set of one or more data tables. The core data table contains 11,159 records.

This IPT archives the data and thus serves as the data repository. The data and resource metadata are available for download in the downloads section. The versions table lists other versions of the resource that have been made publicly available and allows tracking changes made to the resource over time.


The table below shows only published versions of the resource that are publicly accessible.

How to cite

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

Musinguzi L, Rwezawula P, Lugya J, Kamya A, Natugonza V (2023): Fish Species Occurrence Records for Uganda Mobilized from Observation Archives. v1.8. National Fisheries Resources Research Institute. Dataset/Occurrence.


Researchers should respect the following rights statement:

The publisher and rights holder of this work is National Fisheries Resources Research Institute. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY 4.0) License.

GBIF Registration

This resource has been registered with GBIF, and assigned the following GBIF UUID: 90b6055a-c12b-4c91-951a-7efbe184bca1.  National Fisheries Resources Research Institute publishes this resource, and is itself registered in GBIF as a data publisher endorsed by GBIF Uganda.


Occurrence; Uganda; Fish; Observation; Observation; Occurrence


Laban Musinguzi
  • Metadata Provider
  • Publisher
  • Originator
  • Point Of Contact
Research Officer
National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI)
Nile Crescent, Plot 39/45, Jinja; Opposite the wagon ferry terminal
343 Jinja
Philip Rwezawula
  • Metadata Provider
  • Originator
Research Technician
National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI)
Nile Crescent, Plot 39/45, Jinja; Opposite the wagon ferry terminal
343 Jinja
Jessy Lugya
  • Metadata Provider
  • Originator
Research Assistant
National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI)
Nile Crescent, Plot 39/45, Jinja; Opposite the wagon ferry terminal
343 Jinja
+256 778527121
Ashiraf Kamya
  • Metadata Provider
  • Originator
Research Technician
National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI)
Nile Crescent, Plot 39/45, Jinja; Opposite the wagon ferry terminal
343 Jinja
Vianny Natugonza
  • Metadata Provider
  • Originator
  • Point Of Contact
  • Principal Investigator
Research Officer
National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI)
Nile Crescent, Plot 39/45, Jinja; Opposite the wagon ferry terminal
343 ational Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI)

Geographic Coverage

The dataset covers only Uganda. Uganda is a country in East Africa

Bounding Coordinates South West [-1.516, 29.531], North East [4.325, 35.046]

Taxonomic Coverage

The dataset covers only fish species in Uganda. It covers classes Actinopterygii and Sarcopterygii which are the only two taxonomic classes of fish in Uganda.

Class Sarcopterygii, Actinopterygii (Ray-finned fishes)

Temporal Coverage

Formation Period 1996-2017

Project Data

Effective conservation planning depends on the existence of reliable data being available on the status and distribution of fisheries resources. A huge amount of data that document spatial and temporal patterns of fish diversity in Uganda are not utilized fully. This is because they are accessible almost solely to scientists at the data holder institutions or individual scientists actively involved in monitoring and management of biodiversity data, and are in formats which are technically unusable by other researchers, conservationists, and policy makers. Inevitably, these rich fish biodiversity data make little or no impact in terms of informing conservation policies. The goal of this project was to increase capacity for conservation of threatened fish species through data mobilization and training. The specific objectives were (1) to mobilize data on fish records from Uganda’s aquatic systems (including lakes, rivers and streams, and wetlands), (2) identify and train scientists active in monitoring and management of fish biodiversity data in the use of data publishing tools, and (3) create awareness among policy makers in use of biodiversity information for decision making. The mobilized data, published through GBIF is expected to be incorporated into relevant conservation policies in Uganda and ultimately increase capacity for evidence–based conservation, biodiversity research, and education.

Title Increasing capacity for conservation of threatened fish species through data mobilization and training
Identifier BID-AF2017-0206-SMA
Funding The project was mainly supported under the Biodiversity Information for Development (BID) of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) funded by the European Union ( Additional funding was provided by (i) Government of Uganda through regular support to the National Fisheries Resources Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI); and (ii) The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS).
Study Area Description The project area was Uganda, a country in East Africa. Aquatic ecosystems make a significant part of the country’s surface area, with open waters and wetlands covering 41743.2 km2, equivalent to 17.2% of the country’s total surface area (UN-WWAP, 2006). With five major lakes i.e. Victoria, Kyoga, Albert, Edward and George and over 160 small lakes (Langdale-Brown et al. 1964; Langlands, 1973; Nsubuga et al. 2014), aquatic ecosystems in Uganda support diverse aquatic species including fish. Most estimates indicate presence of 501-600 fish species in the country (Pomeroy & Mwima, P. 2002; NEMA, 2009; 2016). With most of these estimates based on scattered species inventories, a considerable number of fish species undescribed and some aquatic ecosystems not frequently monitored, the number of fish species is probably under estimated. A list of fish species for Uganda maintained by FishBase (Floese & Pauly, 2018) provides relative country information on fish taxonomy. According to the list, fish species in Uganda are distributed among 21 families, and 49 genera. The family Cichlidae is the most diverse with about 66.4% of all fish species, followed by Ciprinidae with about 10%. Most of the fish species in the country are native with only a few species: Oreochromis mossambicus, O. spilurus, Coptodon rendalli (Cichlidae), Cyprinus carpio (Cyprinidae), Esox lucius (Esocidae), Poecilia reticulate (Poecilidae), Oncorhynchus mykiss (Salmonidae) being introduced. Species endemic to Uganda are mainly cihclids. This project aimed at mobilizing occurrence records for all fish species for all the aquatic ecosystems throughout the country.
Design Description Knowledge of aquatic biodiversity is Uganda is limited, yet aquatic species are the most threatened. Considering all species in Uganda whose conservation status has been assessed by IUCN, estimates from NEMA (2009) indicate that fish is the most threatened of all aquatic taxa, with the highest number of threatened species (49 species), forming 30% of all threatened species. The goal of the project was to increase availability of biodiversity data that can be utilized by stakeholders (data users), including government ministries, departments, and agencies responsible for biodiversity management and conservation, research institutions, universities and civil society for monitoring and protection of critical habitats of fish, surveillance of endemic and threatened fish species, education and training. This would ultimately result into increased awareness on biodiversity issues; improve decision making and actions for conservation of fish species. The development of the dataset involved mobilizing dis-aggregated data in Microsoft Excel files available at the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI) into occurrence records utilizing acceptable data standards. The data was collected through biodiversity surveys on water bodies in Uganda.

The personnel involved in the project:

Sampling Methods

During the surveys, fish was captured using fish gears including gillnets, hooks, and beach seines on specified sites (localities) in each of the water bodies. The nets were usually set in locations at specified distance from the shoreline including near shore, mid shore or offshore stations. The distances differ by water body but near shore sites are normally 50m from the shoreline, mid shore 100-500m and off shore sites ≥500m. The gillnets included multiple sets of mesh sizes 1 to 8 inches. The dimensions varied but typical gillnets were 90 m long and 26-52 meshes deep. In each set, the smaller nets of (1 to 5.5 inch) were graded at half-inch intervals while the larger meshed nets (6 to 8 inch) were at intervals of one-inch. The offshore nets were set at least three kilometers from the shoreline. The nets were normally set in the evening and retrieved the following morning. Beach seines were not common in the surveys but where used, were in areas suitable for seining such as sandy shorelines close to river mouths. Habitats including the shoreline, open waters, rocky, sandy, vegetated areas, river mouths, laggons, bays etc. were targeted. A description of a typical fish sampling procedure used in the surveys is provided in Wandera & Balirwa, 2010. Once captured, fish were identified to the taxonomic level where possible using taxonomic keys (Greenwood, 1966; Greenwood, 1981).

Study Extent The data that were mobilized to develop this dataset were retrieved from scattered electronic datasets, stored as Microsoft Excel files at NaFIRRI. The data accumulated from fish biodiversity surveys conducted by scientists between 1996 and 2017. The aquatic ecosystems covered included major lakes, including Lakes Victoria, Albert, Kyoga, Edward and George (including Kazinga channel). The data sets also covered other small water bodies and the River Nile. Some of the water bodies were sampled on multiple events during the period but most of the small water bodies were surveyed between 1996 and 2001.
Quality Control Because most of the mobilized/rescued data have no associated physical specimens deposited in the museum, occurrence records were verified by fisheries experts within NaFIRRI based on the expert’s species knowledge, photographs (if available), and known species list of locations. Records that were outside their known range and observations, including the species’ possible extent of occurrence given in FishBase, and for which photographs and actual specimens could not be traced, were left out of this dataset to guard against suspicious species that could have been a result of misidentification. A thorough taxonomic standardization was done by relating the given taxon names within the original dataset with those of Fishbase (Froese & Paully, 2018). Fishbase is one of the most authoritative and comprehensive databases with list of names of marine and freshwater fishes, including information on synonymy, and was therefore considered the best choice for taxonomic standard quality check for the species names. By cross-referencing the given taxon names to the widely accepted FishBase taxonomic standard, it was possible to rule out spelling variations and synonyms, but more importantly, invalid names that were possibly regarded as valid at the first time of identification and data capture. All the location coordinates were verified by plotting them first in Google Earth to ensure that they agree with the mentioned sampled site name.

Method step description:

  1. Selection of datasets We selected data sets stored on computers previously held by scientists who led fish biodiversity surveys. On the computers, the data carried separate folders for each of the lakes or group of related lakes with several files. We selected electronic Microsoft Excel files with the original data as the basis for generating the occurrences.
  2. Developing the datasets into Darwin core template for occurrence records The information in the datasets was used to develop the fish species occurrences in the Darwin core format using an appropriate template. The datasets had basic information useful for developing occurrences such as waterbody, name of fish species, collection event date, locality, and GPS coordinates (especially for records after 2001). These were entered in appropriate fields within the occurrence template.
  3. Geo-referencing and coordinate conversions The data sets, especially before 2001, did not have GPS coordinates but had information on the actual locations or sites where the fish were captured. These were geo-referenced by verifying the locations and obtaining their GPS coordinates in Google Earth. The verification of the locations benefited from local knowledge and from field staff who participated in the surveys and are still at NaFIRRI. Where GPS coordinates were available, they were used. Coordinates that were not in decimal format were converted using online coordinate conversion tools including canadensys ( and PGC Coordinate Converter ( of the University of Minnesota.
  4. Confirming fish species names Species names were confirmed using FishBase (Froese & Paully, 2018). FishBase is the most widely used reference guide for fish species. For the species that were allocated to the genus Barbus in the original survey data, the currently accepted nomenclature, Enteromius for the small diploid species and Labeobarbus for the large hexaploid species is followed in this dataset (Van Ginneken et al., 2017; Vreven et al. 2016). The two genera are both given for records where the highest taxonimic level allocated at the time of observation was Barbus. In addition, all haplochromine cichlids are allocated to genus Haplochromis which is accepted in Fishbase. However, where the original record name is valid in the Catalog of Fishes (Eschmeyer et al. 2016), it is also mentioned in the appropriate field (with the name at first identification).
  5. Data cleaning The GPS coordinates were checked for errors by visualizing in Google Earth or QGIS. This step enabled us to correct errors in GPS coordinates.

Bibliographic Citations

  1. Eschmeyer, W.N., Fricke, R. & van der Laan, R. 2016-2017. Catalog of Fishes: Genera, Species, References. Online Version, 31 Mar 2016.
  2. Froese, R. & Pauly D. (Eds). 2018. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication., version (06/2017).
  3. Greenwood, P. H., 1966. The fishes of Uganda. 2nd ed. The Uganda Society, Kampala.
  4. Greenwood, P. H., 1981. The haplochromine fishes of the East African Lakes. Collected papers on their taxonomy, biology and evolution with an introduction and species index. Kraus International Publications, Munich.
  5. Langdale-Brown, I., Osmaston, H. A. and Wilson, J. G. 1964. The vegetation of Uganda and its bearing on land use. Government of Uganda, Entebbe.
  6. Langlands, B.W. 1973. A Preliminary Review of Land Use in Uganda. Occasional Paper No. 43, Department of Geography, Makerere University, Kampala
  7. NEMA (2016), National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan II (2015-2025).
  8. NEMA 2009: The integrated assessment of the potential impacts of the EU ACP Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).
  9. Nsubuga, F.N.W., Namutebi, E.N., & Nsubuga-Ssenfuma, M. 2014. Water Resources of Uganda: An Assessment and Review. Journal of Water Resource and Protection, 6, 1297-1315.
  10. Pomeroy, D. and Mwima, P. 2002. The State of Uganda's Biodiversity, 2002. Makerere University Institute of Environment and Natural Resources/National Biodiversity Data Bank. With support from ECOTRUST
  11. UN-WWAP (2006) Uganda National Water Development Report; Prepared for the 2nd UN World Water Development Report “Water a Shared Responsibility” UN-WATER, WWAP/2006/9. World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP).
  12. Van Ginneken, M., Decru, E., Verheyen, E. and Snoeks, J. (2017). ‘Morphometry and DNA barcoding reveal cryptic diversity in the genus Enteromius (Cypriniformes: Cyprinidae) from the Congo basin, Africa’. European Journal of Taxonomy. 310:1–32.
  13. Vreven, E.J.W.M.N., Musschoot, T., Snoeks, J. and Schliewen, U.K. (2016). ‘The African hexaploid Torini (Cypriniformes: Cyprinidae): review of a tumultuous history’. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 177:231–305. https://doi. org/10.1111/zoj.12366
  14. Wandera, S.B & John Stephen Balirwa, J.S. 2010. Fish species diversity and relative abundance in Lake Albert—Uganda, Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management, 13:3, 284-293. DOI: 10.1080/14634988.2010.507120

Additional Metadata

Purpose The data set was created to increase availability of fish biodiversity data in Uganda. The data can be utilized for monitoring and protection of critical habitats, surveillance of endemic and threatened fish species, education and training. The data is envisaged to support the activities of key stakeholders including government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) responsible for biodiversity management and conservation, research institutions, universities and civil society and ultimately contribute to conservation of fish biodiversity.
Maintenance Description The resource will be updated as and when needed. The relevant excel data sheets will be maintained and if new information becomes available for instance from taxonomic changes and comments from users, the resource will be updated.
Alternative Identifiers 90b6055a-c12b-4c91-951a-7efbe184bca1