The ever growing pressure on fishing has been increasingly a threatening factor to the sustainability of fishery resources on Lake Tanganyika, The Guardian has learnt.
According to the Lake Tanganyika Authority (LTA), fishing practices have become much more efficient and consequently more destructive.
Depleting fish in the lake and other water bodies has been, by the LTA, been associated with, what it called, ‘use of destructive fishing gear and overfishing.’
The LTA maintains that, the lake suffers from uncontrolled and unplanned development. The board advises that, the management of fisheries and related activities that affect the basin should be done under the regional planning frame and it should include all other activities practiced on the same.
As of now, LTA says that, the fisheries are open without appropriate regulation and policies, while implemented laws are weak as they are not reinforced.
According to Gaspard Ntakimazi of the National Action Plan (NAP), the current Fisheries Management Frame Plan should be reviewed as an intervention plan aimed at ensuring the sustainability of fisheries development on the lake.
Ntakimazi said, interventions proposed for the development of sustainable fisheries on the lake included, reviewing the national components of the Fisheries Management Frame Plan, developing and implementing the fishing licence process, improving the involvement of local communities in fisheries management, and promoting sustainable fisheries alternative livelihoods.
He added that, if prompt action is not taken, the only viable question is, “… how long will the lake remain as the sustaining life source for its ecosystem?”
Through the, Strategic Action Programme (SAP) adopted by the Lake Tanganyika Authority Conference of Ministers, the main challenges identified are, excessive fishing pressure in the pelagic area, and the littoral area and also, poorly controlled catches of ornamental fishes.
Commenting on the topic, John Mwagama, an expert in the fishing industry said, the number of fish within the prime species has been significantly reduced by the use of high-tech fishing practices that deplete stocks, degrade nursery areas, and produce high quantities of waste.
He also noted that, “… all of the recent studies on overfishing recommend the adoption of a, comprehensive ecologically based approach to fisheries management.”
He added: “…we must not simply try to limit catch numbers but have intercooperate relations and also government involvement.”
According to him, it may initially seem that, the problem with over fishing is simply fishermen pulling too many fish out of the lake, which is certainly a big part of it, but there are a number of other factors to be considered as well.
Mwagama mentioned them as, the unintentional removal of non-targeted species during fishing operations (bycatch), destruction of coastal and ocean-floor breeding habitats, pollution and climate change.
Estimates suggest that, there is not a place left on earth holding such a diverse variety of marine life as does the Lake Tanganyika which is reported to harbour over 2000 different species, of which more than half are found nowhere else.
Lake Tanganyika is internationally recognized as a global hotspot of biodiversity, representing some of the most diverse aquatic ecosystems in the world.
The lake’s valuable aquatic ecosystem and the many natural resources found in its basin provide essential sources of livelihood and income for over 10 million riparian population around it, and contribute to the growing economies of surrounding countries of Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Zambia and Tanzania.