The biodiversity of Tanganyika Lake, one of the world’s natural wonders and the deepest freshwater lake in Africa, is in danger due to human activities in the region. In response, authorities from the four countries sharing the lake’s waters – Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, and Zambia – have collectively decided to suspend fishing activities in Tanganyika Lake for three months, beginning from 11th May to 11th August this year (2023).
This is the first time that fishing activities will be suspended for such a prolonged period; previously, the usual suspension of activities in the lake was for just one week.
According to Colonel Jean Baptiste, the chairperson of the security commission in Tanganyika Lake, the temporary fishing suspension is intended to ensure fish species grow and multiply. It follows a significant drop in fish production in recent years in the region. This suspension is part of a long-term response journey towards the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in the region, with the hope that future generations can benefit from this pristine resource.
Tanganyika Lake is a precious treasure for its bordering countries, hosting hundreds of fish species. Spread over an area of 32,900 square kilometers, Tanganyika waters are shared amongst four countries, including Burundi (7%), the DRC (45%), Tanzania (41%), and Zambia (6%). The Burundian section of the lake is currently producing around 12,000 tons of fish, a significant decrease from the 20,000 tons produced in the 1990s, as reported by the National Confederation of Fishermen of Burundi.
In 2021, the city of Bujumbura faced a dire threat from a combination of strong winds, heavy rains, and floods, which caused Tanganyika Lake to reach dangerous levels and submerged critical infrastructure such as roads, markets, and school playgrounds. These devastating events were largely the result of human activities such as deforestation, unsustainable agricultural and fishing practices, and water pollution. The direct causes of these threats include factors such as inadequate infrastructure and funding, poor enforcement of existing regulations, too few appropriate regulations for the management of the lake, as well as limited sustainable livelihood options for the basin population.
Jean Claude Kanene, assistant to the minister in charge of water and environment, recognizes the importance of Tanganyika Lake as a source of livelihood for thousands of Burundians. He mentioned that planting trees is necessary to limit erosion and reduce pollutants from the Ntahangwa river from Buyenzi Zone to reduce threats to the lake’s ecosystem.
Collaboration and urgent action are necessary to protect Tanganyika Lake and preserve the biodiversity of the region. It is essential to implement sustainable practices that balance the environment’s needs and the basin population’s livelihoods. The proposed fishing suspension plan, together with other measures such as planting more trees and enacting appropriate regulations, can safeguard the lake’s ecosystem and ensure future generations enjoy its beauty and resources.