Fish catches from Lake Tanganyika going down

Fishing for a living in Lake Tanganyika has become a gamble, due to the escalating effects of climate change, pollution and unfriendly fishing gear which have reduced catches from the World’s second deepest lake.

“Fish production in Lake Tanganyika continued to go down in recent years,” Executive Director of Lake Tanganyika Authority (LTA), Dr Henry Mwima revealed recently when speaking in an exclusive interview with The Guardian in Bunjumbura, Burundi.

He stated that for the past six years, annual fish production in the 12million-year-old lake stood at 200,000 tones.

“These are just statistics, but we’re not sure whether the 200,000 tones harvested in the last six months remain the same right now.”

Lake Tanganyika is regarded as one of the world’s most biologically diverse lakes and reaches depths of about 1,470 metres, making it the second deepest after Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia.

Its waters are stratified with cold bands, a feature of tropical lakes, but below about 250 metres the water is anoxic – devoid of oxygen.

Mwima further stated that LTA was seeking financial resources to carry out a baseline survey in the four countries, which will determine how many earn a living from the lake and the types of fishing equipment they use, so as to establish uniform regulations and practices.

“We are also looking into possibilities to start carrying out a massive awareness campaign on issues related to environmental management along the lake. This is to be held in all the countries sharing the lake.”

“Our existence will be meaningful if the lake is managed sustainably,” Mwima stated, underscoring the need to involve all stakeholders in the lake including small-scale fishermen.

Four countries border Lake Tanganyika – Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zambia, Burundi and Tanzania – and share territorial jurisdiction of the world’s second largest fresh water lake by volume.

Millions of people in the four countries with access to Lake Tanganyika rely on it for a living, and it is estimated that about 30.000 to 40.000 catch its fish.

Zambia and Burundi hold the smallest territorial claim to the lake, which measures 673km along its north-south axis and has an average width of 50kms.

DRC controls 45 percent and Tanzania 41 percent, but the focus of commercial activity on the lake is Mpulungu, land-locked Zambia’s only port. One fisheries expert said three-quarters of the fish passing through Mpulungu came from waters outside of Zambia’s territorial control.

Courtesy of the Guardian

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