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6. CIFA/85/Symp.5

based on the work of T.W. Maembe
Division of Fisheries
Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Tourism
Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania

This document is a shortened version of a consultancy report prepared for FAO by T.W. Maembe of Tanzania. It considers the most pressing problems for fisheries management and development in each of eight African lakes: lakes Tanganyika, Malawi/Nyasa, Kariba, Victoria, Albert, Edward, Cahora Bassa and Kivu. Recommendations are made for future action in the case of each of these lakes.


This paper is based on the findings of an FAO consultancy carried out during May and June 1985 with the objective of providing an up-to-date report on the following eight major lakes in central and southern Africa.

Lake Edward
Lake Albert
Lake Victoria
Lake Malawi/Nyasa
Lake Tanganyika
Lake Kariba
Lake Kivu
Lake Cahora Bassa

The consultancy also made recommendations on the future development and management of these lakes. For the purposes. of the CIFA Symposium this summary concentrates on comments and recommendations relating to fisheries management and omits much of the statistical and background data also contained in the consultant's report.

The countries sharing and benefiting directly from these lakes have a total area of over six million square kilometers and a combined population of over 100 million, although only about two percent are employed as full time fishermen, or in related employment. The lakes have a total surface area of 150 000 square kilometers which is about 2.6 percent of the land area, although in some countries the lake area as a proportion of total territory is much higher.

The fisheries of the lakes under consideration are mainly exploited by traditional, small-scale fishing operations, although more capital-intensive methods are important in Burundi, Zimbabwe and Zambia where purse-seiners are used, and in Malawi where pair-trawling takes place at the southern end of the lake. The fish is mainly sold either fresh at the lake side (or sundried, smoked or salted for distribution inland) but iced fish is in a few instances transported up to 200 kilometers by road to population centres.


With the exception of Lake Cahora Bassa, all the lakes under consideration are subject to fisheries legislation aimed at protecting the fisheries, through such mechanisms as vessel registration, fishing licences, restrictions on mesh sizes, closed seasons, nursery areas and fish trading licences. However, in general the regulations cannot be adequately enforced owing to staff shortages and non-compliance by fishermen themselves, mainly as a result of economic pressures. Among the pre-conditions necessary for effective and rational fisheries management are:

There is evidence that these pre-conditions are still noticeably lacking, as shown by:-


This is the largest lake in Africa and an important food source to the surrounding populations. Nile perch has now come to be the predominant species mainly at the expense of the naturally occurring haplochromis and tilapia species. In Uganda, Nile perch now accounts for over 50 percent of the catch, and due to the lack of mobility of haplochromis species the continuation of predation by Nile perch and overfishing now threatens the survival of the haplochromis species.

The fisheries management and development policies of the countries sharing the lake have as their goal the rational exploitation of the fish resources to provide animal protein as well as employment.

In 1947, the East African High Commission introduced a unified approach to fisheries research, development and regulation on the lake and established the East African Freshwater Fisheries Research Organization (EAFFRO) based in Jinja, Uganda to handle the fisheries research needs of the great lakes and other inland waters of East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika). The Lake Victoria Fisheries Service (LVFS) was established to handle the management and regulation of the gillnet fishery on Lake Victoria.

The dissolution of LVFS in 1960 handed over responsibility of the management and regulation of fisheries in the territorial waters of each country to the relevant national Fisheries Department. Research continued under EAFFRO up to the collapse of the East African Community in 1977. EAFFRO had the financial and expert capability to carry out continuous monitoring of the fish stocks using the well equipped research vessel R.V. Ibis and the support of FAO/UNDP.

Since 1977 national research centres have been established out of the EAFFRO sub-stations at Kisumu, Jinja and Mwanza. However, research activities have been very limited and uncordinated resulting in an unclear picture of the size and composition of the fish resources during a period when radical changes have been taking place in the composition of fish stocks.

The national fisheries departments have enacted separate regulations to guide the exploitation of the resources in their territorial waters, taking little notice of the fact that fish do not recognize man made boundaries.

Trawling for Haplochromis has been established in Mwanza, and trawling regulations limiting their operation to depths of more than 20m have been introduced.

The Committee for Inland Fisheries of Africa, recognizing the importance of maintaining a coordinated and cooperative approach towards the management and development of the Fisheries of Lake Victoria established a CIFA ad hoc Sub-Committee for Lake Victoria in 1980. The main objective of the sub-committee is to develop regional collaboration though a regional project; it also aims to provide technical guidance to the governments sharing the lake with the aim of serving the social, economic and nutritional needs of the population. The sub-committee has assisted in the design of a regional fisheries project for financing but to date no action has been taken by EC because of lack of formal joint request on the part of the riparian countries.

The project's first phase would aim to reorganize and harmonize the existing fisheries statistical data collection and analysis system of catches and fishing effort on the lake. This data would then be utilized to assess the fish stocks.

The most serious constraint affecting fisheries management on Lake Victoria at the present time is a high degree of uncertainty about what is happening to the resource. International cooperation and coordination will be essential for any progress to be made in this respect. Meanwhile the fishery as a whole suffers from shortages of foreign exchange, gear and spare parts, and deterioration in the extension services due to the prevailing economic conditions in the riparian states.

Among the recommendations made by the consultant, the following relating to fisheries management may be highlighted.

  1. The standing stock needs to be reassessed (preferably along the original lines of the FAO/UNAP/EAFFRO assessment of 1964–67) to take into account the changed circumstances.

  2. A coordinating committee should be re-established comprising the directors of fisheries and of fisheries research centres of Lake Victoria, to supervise and ensure cooperation between the states concerned in matters relating to resource assessment and fisheries management.

  3. There should be harmonization of legislation relating to fishing methods, areas and the restriction of commercial trawling.

  4. Environmental and pollution control legislation should be introduced.

  5. Research activities should be freed from the restriction imposed by national frontiers and should be coordinated.


The predominant species are pelagic, predominantly the Lake Tanganyika sardine known locally as Kapenta. Fishing is mainly in the hands of artisanal fishermen who land an estimated 70 000 tonnes, some 10 000 tonnes being landed by the industrial purse-seiners. Fish exploitation is limited to within 5 km from the shore because of the operational limitations of the craft and gear used. The open waters of the lake may still be considered underexploited due to the limited range of the canoes. The latest estimates of the potential of the resource, dating from the mid 1970's vary so widely (22 kg/ha to 100 kg/ha) that their usefulness for management purposes is questionable. The fish resources are certainly subject to wide fluctuations due to changing limnological conditions.

The outstanding problems facing fisheries management in lake Tanganyika are:-

  1. The lack of reliable data on the resource. Delays have arisen in implementing a regional fisheries project for the lake, mainly through lack of funds.

  2. There is no regular forum to facilitate exchange of information on technical, scientific and fisheries management issues. The CIFA Lake Tanganyika Sub-Committee meets too infrequently at present. With more frequent meetings it could fulfil this role.

  3. Collection of routine fisheries statistical data is seriously hampered by shortages of transport and other basic items.

  4. Fisheries issues have not been taken into account in the planning of other economic activities on the lake, such as vessel repair, transportation, agriculture, oil exploration and waste disposal.

The consultant has made a number of recommendations concerning the management of fisheries on Lake Tanganyika of which the following may be highlighted:-

  1. The recommendations of the FAO Regional Office for Africa workshops on fisheries statistics for inland waters, held in Burundi, should be implemented.

  2. FAO is urged to mobilize support for the implementation of a regional project for Lake Tanganyika.

  3. The existing fisheries research centres in Burundi and Tanganyika should be rehabilitated. Centres are required at Kalemie (Zaire) and Mpulungu (Zambia) and the work of the four centres should be coordinated.

  4. There should be an integrated approach to management of the lake across all sectors: transportation, communications, agriculture, etc.

  5. Legislation should be harmonized with respect to fishery exploitation and conservation of the environment.

  6. A mechanism should be sought for regular cooperation and consultation between the four countries concerned.


Despite its size Lake Malawi/Nyasa is less productive than Lake Tanganyika, yielding 30 000 to 40 000 tonnes annually, although there have been some very wide fluctuations in productivity. Commercial pair-trawling operations are conducted in the south of the lake which is much more productive than the north.

Policy on management and development of the fisheries has been established independently in each of the individual reparian states. However, the setting up of the Southern Africa Development Coordinating Conference (SADCC), offers new possibilities for cooperation.

Mozambique and Tanzania had limited their fishing operation on the lake to small-scale fishermen. Malawi was, through the FAO/UNDP project, able to develop a pair-trawling fishery operating from Monkey Bay. The project also investigated suitable means of processing, distribution and marketing of the catch in Malawi.

Tanzania established a nucleus research station at Kyela since the mid-seventies but the centre was not able to carry out meaningful research due to lack of staff and frequent breakdown of the research vessel MV. Mvuvi which is now out of operation. The station now forms a branch of the national body responsible for fisheries research in Tanzania “The Tanzanian Fisheries Research Institute”.

The Southern Africa Development Coordinating Conference (SADCC) has recognized the importance of the fish resources of Lake Malawi/Nyasa as a source of protein and employment and has proposed a project to be funded under SADCC to study the pelagic fish resources of Lake Malawi/Nyasa.

Again, the main problems facing management of the Lake Malawi/Nyasa fisheries are a lack of knowledge of a shared resource, a lack of fish catch and effort data, and as yet, inadequate communication between the riparian states.

Recently the Government of the United Kingdom has shown interest in financing the SADCC project and has proposed an independent consultant firm to study the fish resources of Lake Malawi/Nyasa and prepare a detailed and fully costed proposal for a three year joint study for the Governments of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania of the pelagic fish resources in Lake Malawi/Nyasa.

Among the recommendations made by the FAO consultant are the following:-

  1. Give full support to the independent consultant appointed to work on the joint pelagic resource study and to the project's efforts to improve knowledge of the resources.

  2. The project should be a mechanism for helping to harmonize legislation aimed at managing the fish resource and protecting the environment. It should also provide an opportunity for coordinating research and standardizing data collection.

  3. Use CIFA in collaboration with SADCC as the main coordinating committee for collaboration on Lake Malawi/Nyasa.


As with the lakes Tanganyka, Victoria and Malawi inadequate knowledge of the lake's fish resources presents difficulties for fisheries management. However, economic problems in the region and civil disturbances in Uganda have seriously disrupted fisheries work. There is clear evidence of overfishing (which may have exacerbated the activities of donors whereby subsidized gear has been supplied to artisanal fishermen).

The consultant has recommended:

  1. That the Zaire-Uganda committee which at present is confined largely to matters such as fish poaching, and, which is directed mainly towards promoting good neighbourly relations along the border, should extend its activities to include coordination of fisheries management.

  2. Fisheries legislation should be harmonized and properly enforced.

  3. Funding should be sought for research involving the territorial waters of both states (Zaire and Uganda).


Like Lake Albert, Lake Edward is shared by Uganda and Zaire. At present there is no forum in which fisheries management issues can be discussed between the two nations concerned. Fisheries regulations do not appear to be adequately enforced and the fishery is probably being adversely affected, (though precisely to what extent is not clear) by pollution from copper mines.

Recommendations of the consultant include:-

  1. A regular forum should be established to coordinate fisheries management, legislation and research between Uganda and Zaire.

  2. The long term efforts of copper ions dumped in the lake should be studied.

  3. Effects should be made to curtail the adverse effects of agricultural practices, such as the use of pesticides, on the lake's fisheries.


This lake was noted for being particularly unproductive until the introduction of two plankton feeding lake Tanganyika species (Stolothinosa tanganikae and limnothrisa miodon). The limnothrisa miodon was successful and has become the dominant catch. However, fishing on this lake is not a popular activity and the surrounding populations do not appear to be high consumers of fish.

In addition to recommending that a joint research programme be established the consultant recommended greater cooperation in the field of fisheries management between Rwanda and Zaire.


Lake Kariba and Lake Cahora Bassa are the two man-made lakes among the eight lakes reviewed. Although some species of fish are recorded in Lake Kariba, the most important are limnothrisa miodon (Kapenta) an exotic species introduced from Lake Tanganyika and its predator, the Tiger Fish Hydrocynus vittatus.

The management and development of fisheries in Zimbabwe is vested with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management while in Zambia there is a fully fledged Fisheries Department situated at Chilanga. In Zimbabwe fisheries management is practised through the Parks and Wildlife Regulations, which require boats to be registered and each fisherman to possess a fishing licence. Similar legislation exists in Zambia. Fishing is regulated through periodic inspection to ensure the use of large mesh size fishing nets.

The sardines fishery has contributed to rapid development of the Kariba town. Zambia is also benefiting from the kapenta exploitation especially after the Zimbabwe liberation war. There are also other subsidiary activities utilizing the water available in the lake, like the crocodile and prawn farms.

The Southern African Development Coordinating Conference (SADCC) has among the project proposals a regional project for Fisheries Research and Development on lake Kariba. Although funding is a problem facing the implementation of the project a Joint Norwegian Agency for International Development (NORAD) and Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) mission has in 1983 visited Zambia and Zimbabwe to:-

The main constraints facing the authorities at present are:-

  1. Lack of adequate facilities for continuous research on the state of the fish stocks, their distribution, abundance and for establishing the limit of quantities which can be harvested.

  2. There is no active forum for coordinating management and development activities on the lake involving joint decision by Zambia and Zimbabwe.

  3. Although Kariba Research Institute caters for fisheries limnological and statistical data collection from the Zimbabwe side, matters related to Kariba fisheries have to be dealt with from Chilanga.

  4. Lack of adequate funds to meet the development, research and management inputs of the industry.

  5. Legislation operating on the lake is not harmonized. Consequently proper management of the fish stocks cannot be effected.

In view of the fact that there is very limited cooperation in understanding the different fisheries activities taking place on the lake, the consultant recommended that the Governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe:-

  1. Institute machinery for coordinating and advising on fisheries management and development.

  2. Strengthen the Kariba Fisheries Research Institute (Zimbabwe) and establish a sister research Institute on the Zambia side to promote fisheries research on the lake.

  3. Carry out research on the ecology of the Zambezi river system which is inadequately known when compared to the extensive data now available from the Kariba Lake.


The lake which formed behind the Cahora Bassa dam began to fill in early December 1974. Fisheries has always been accorded low priority on this project, and the lake is still only lightly fished. A contributory factor to the low level of development has been the continuing unrest in Mozambique.

The consultant has recommended the following in relation to fisheries management and development in the lake:-

  1. A permanent system of data collection is required to facilitate the monitoring of fish stocks.

  2. Funds should be allocated to carry out a stock assessment of the fish stocks of the lake.

  3. Other areas requiring commitment of funds and resources are, provision of gear, improved methods of distribution and marketing, credit, boat-building and access road improvements.


The consultant reached the general conclusion that production from all eight lakes considered could be increased with coordinated planning, improved knowledge of the shared resources and a spirit of neighbourly cooperation.

The approach to managing these lakes would have to be based upon each lake as an ecological unit, taking into account all activities which use the lake's waters or products, and all activities which affect the ecological conditions of the lake.

Very little benefit could be expected from studies of pelagic resources without cooperation from all riparian countries of each lake and without access to all waters and shores. It is also essential that legislation and measures aimed at managing the lakes' resources should be devised with full cooperation from all the authorities involved, at the departmental, national and international levels.

The consultant also concluded that in addition to biological research, fisheries management would be more effective if socio-economic studies could be undertaken into the problems of small-scale fishermen. In the case of all the lakes, considered, systematic, well devised and integrated statistical data collecting programmes were either lacking or needed reviving.

Finally, it is particularly important that at the international level, mechanisms for regular collaboration be devised to ensure harmonization of resource management policies and meaningful research. Here FAO, through CIFA and its sub-committees could have a useful and influential role.

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