Inland Fisheries

A proposal for implementation of the Lake Tanganyika Framework Fisheries Management Plan. FAO/AfDB Field Report F–14.

Managing inland fisheries

1) This report presents results of the joint AfDB/FAO/FISHCODE Mission to Lake Tanganyika, which was carried out between March and July 2000, and involved technical consultations at FAO Headquarters in Rome as well as extensive field visits to the Lake Tanganyika region.

2) Shared by the four countries of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, and Zambia, Lake Tanganyika covers an area of 32,900 km2 , has a maximum depth of 1,470m, and contains 18,880km3 of water. By water area, it is the largest of Africa’s Great Rift Valley lakes, the second largest of all African lakes (after Lake Victoria), and the fifth largest of the world’s lakes. By water volume, it is the second largest lake in the world (after Lake Baikal).

3) Fishing in Lake Tanganyika has intensified considerably over the course of the 20th century in association with the dramatic expansion of human population and settlements around the lake and the introduction of various technological innovations, such as paraffin oil (kerosene) pressure lamps for night-fishing, synthetic netting material, and motorised craft.

4) Counting operators in both the harvest and post-harvest sectors (fishing unit owners and crew, processors, and traders) and service providers (input suppliers, transporters, boat builders, etc.), as well as their dependant family and household members, it is estimated that around one million people directly rely on the lake's fisheries for their livelihood.

5) Modern harvest operations primarily exploit six endemic non-cichlid pelagic species. These include the two schooling clupeid ‘sardines’ Limnothrissa miodon and Stolothrissa tanganicae, together with their major predators, all centropomids of the genus Lates -- viz: L. stappersii, L. angustifrons, L. mariae, and L. microlepis.

6) Of the Lates species, the latter three have from the mid-1970s been incidental to the catch, reportedly as a result of heavy exploitation pressure. The lake’s commercial fishery is now essentially based on the two clupeids (ca. 65% by weight) and L. stappersii (ca. 30% by weight).

7) Annual harvest levels in recent years have been estimated to vary in the range of 165,000 - 200,000 mt -- volumes that translate into annual earnings amounting to anywhere between 80 to 100 million US dollars.

8) The lake hosts the second largest inland fishery in Africa (after Lake Victoria) and directly or indirectly provides income, food, drinking water, and medium of transport and communication for an estimated 10 million inhabitants of its catchment area. Many more millions of people residing within the wider trading orbit of the Tanganyika basin are regular or occasional beneficiaries of its resources as consumers of fishery products.

9) The lake's role in supporting nutritional welfare is therefore critical in a region where fish are estimated to account for up to 40 percent of total protein supply, but where per caput fish supplies are steadily declining because of increasing human populations and continuing high pressure on capture fisheries resources.

10) In recent years, episodes of civil unrest and military conflict have compounded the effects of population growth in challenging food production capabilities, including those of Lake Tanganyika and other major regional fisheries.

11) Noted for its highly diverse community of fish and other aquatic fauna, outstanding scenery, and near-pristine waters, Lake Tanganyika is also of great significance in terms of conservation values and the potential it offers as an ‘eco-tourism’ destination.

12) Amidst growing concerns over the environmental status, endangered biodiversity, and possible over-fishing of this unique lake, the FAO-executed Lake Tanganyika Research (LTR) Project (GCP/RAF/271/FIN) was established in 1992, with funding primarily from Finland.

13) LTR's purpose was to investigate Tanganyika’s biological production and fisheries potential, and to devise modalities for the optimal management, on a regional scale, of its fisheries resources to serve present and future human welfare and biological conservation needs.

14) The major components of the LTR research programme, conducted in full collaboration with the national fisheries authorities and institutes of the respective lacustrine states, included hydrodynamics, limnology, fish and zooplankton biology, remote sensing, fish genetics, fisheries statistics, legal-institutional studies, and socio-economics.

15) Some aspects of LTR research were carried out in conjunction with the Lake Tanganyika Biodiversity Project (LTBP), which was established in 1995 as a five-year project with funding from the UNDP/Global Environmental Facility (GEF). LTBP is due to be wound up in July 2000, with the completion of a Strategic Action Plan (SAP) for the Sustainable Management of Lake Tanganyika and a draft ‘Convention on the Sustainable Management of Lake Tanganyika’, which now awaits ratification by the four lacustrine States.

16) LTBP’s remit was to address wider, basin-scale management problems of pollution control, conservation, and the maintenance of biodiversity, thus complementing LTR’s more directly fisheries-related investigations.

17) The LTR Fisheries Management Working Group, formed in late 1997, brought together a team of LTR advisors, project associates from the respective national counterpart agencies of the four lacustrine countries as well as the University of Kuopio in Finland, and FAO technical officers from the Fisheries Department (FI) and the Development Law Service (LEGN).

18) The group was established in order to facilitate the process of collating and assessing major results of six years of LTR research and, consistent with LTR objectives, to use the resulting synthesis as a comprehensive set of reference points for developing a regional, lake-wide approach to the optimal management of Tanganyika’s fishery resources.

19) A draft Framework Fisheries Management Plan (FFMP) for Lake Tanganyika, based on principles laid out in the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF), was developed by the group for consideration by the fisheries authorities of the respective lacustrine States and also for presentation at a series of community meetings convened around the shoreline.