Global Nature Fund nominates Lake Tanganyika in Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and Zambia as the “Threatened Lake of the Year 2017". Sedimentation, pollution and overexploitation jeopardize the second largest lake in Africa. Containing almost 17 % of the world's available fresh water Lake Tanganyika is of global importance and source of life for millions of people. On the World Day of Wetlands, the GNF draws attention to the importance of lakes and wetlands all over the world. Together with the local Living Lakes partner organization Biraturaba, the GNF calls for sustainable measures to preserve Lake Tanganyika.
A Lake of Superlatives
Lake Tanganyika is habitat to more than 1,500 plant and animal species, of which 40 % are endemic that means they cannot be found anywhere else on the earth. This richness makes it an important biodiversity hotspot. With 1,470 metres it is the second deepest lake in the world and the second largest freshwater lake by volume, containing almost 17 % of the world’s unfrozen fresh water. With 673 kilometres, it is the longest lake in the world.
A growing human population entails serious problems for the lake
The Lake Tanganyika basin faces multiple challenges, resulting from the activities of rapidly expanding human populations in the riparian countries. One-tenth of the ten million people living in the Tanganyika basin, directly depends on fishery resources of the lake, about 100,000 of them being fishermen themselves.
Overexploitation of biological resources is threatening Lake Tanganyika. Overfishing leads to a dramatic reduction of fish catches. Between 1995 and 2011, the total fish stock has decreased by 25 %, while the number of fishermen increased fourfold. At the same time the harvest per fisherman and year decreased by 81 %.
The reduction in catches is mainly linked to overfishing. Indeed, surveys carried out in 1995 and 2011 showed that there has been a very large increase in the number of fishermen and the number of fishing boats, as well as a very large decrease in production. The number of active fishers increased from 44,957 in 1995 to 94,886 in 2011 (an increase of 111.06 % in 16 years); the number of fishing boats increased from 13,192 in 1995 to 28,212 in 2011 (an increase of 113.86 % in 16 years).
In the Burundian part, the number of fishermen increased from 2,021 fishermen in 1995 to 8,202 in 2011 (an increase of 305.84 % in 16 years); and the number of fishing boats increased from 1,408 in 1995 to 3,236 in 2011 (an increase of 129.83 %). Production in the Burundian part increased from 20,000 tons in 1995 to 15,000 tons (A decrease of 25 % due to overfishing); in terms of yield, production increased from 9.89 tons of fish per fisherman per year (1995) to 1.83 tons of fish per fisherman per year (2011).