From 1999 to 2011 some regions in the Lake Tanganyika Basin experienced humanitarian crises that displaced hundreds of thousands of people to neighboring countries. When relative calm returned to the region in 2008, an influx of displaced peoples and refugees returned to the lake seeking their ancestral fishing grounds. Well-meaning non-governmental organizations and United Nations-organizations donated fishing equipment to these returning people to aid their livelihood opportunities. These fishing programs, however, increased uncontrolled fishing effort on Lake Tanganyika beyond that of previous levels, resulting in decreasing fish catches. Increased monitoring of the fishery, therefore, became essential.

In 2009, as a result of uncontrolled fishing effort due to the influx of returnees, inefficient national efforts to monitor their fisheries, and the observed decline of fishery resources, the four countries bordering Lake Tanganyika (Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia) established a regional coordinating body called the Lake Tanganyika Authority to implement fisheries conservation and management measures in compliance with the Convention on the Sustainable Management of Lake Tanganyika. To inform and enable a fisheries monitoring program on Lake Tanganyika, the Authority conducted a lake-wide fisheries frame survey in 2011 to inventory the number of fishermen, fishing units and fisheries infrastructure around Lake Tanganyika.

When comparing the 2011 frame survey with data from a similar survey conducted in 1995 (the two most extensive studies to date on Lake Tanganyika), results revealed troubling trends in fish capacity, including: an increase in illegal fishing gear, a doubling of the total number of fishermen and fishing units, and a decline in catch rates since 2002 (based on Burundi data which has been consistently collected).

This article analyzes the trends of the Lake Tanganyika fishery, including: fishing effort, the changing uses of gear, and trends in employment in the fishery. Because of the observed increase of fishing capacity (e.g. the numbers of vessels, licenses and fishermen), this article addresses whether an effective fishery management program can be implemented on the lake. Past management efforts have been made from within the basin by the individual countries (Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia), transnational organizations (Food and Agriculture Organization), and the Lake Tanganyika Authority. Using current notions of fishery management on large lakes in the region and ideas from a case study from Gambia, West Africa, this study suggests that effective fishery management on Lake Tanganyika requires the adoption of a formal Monitoring, Control & Surveillance system, community surveillance, an improvement in licensing systems, and a limitation in the number of fishermen and fishing units.

You do not currently have access to this content.