Lake Tanganyika flood drowns fish catches and markets


The coastal fish markets of Kibirizi and Nyobonzi are among the areas affected by the evolution of the lake ecosystem as a result of global climate change, which poses challenges to fisheries actors in the Kigoma region.

Fishmongers say they are not getting any money as their market area is flooded and fishermen are getting no more fish, while shore fish markets are being engulfed, pushing fishmongers away from built markets to places makeshift more than a hundred meters away.

Fresh fish traders at the old Kibirizi fish market say they are suddenly financially and mentally broke after flood waters covered all viable trading sites.

Mlasi Juma (47) said fishmongers had to abandon the built market, while the regular supply of fish stumbled with the floods. “We were selling a lot, but after the water hit us, we left the building and moved to the other side, where there is no business,” she said, noting that residents of the Kibirizi area have been badly affected as houses have been flooded and a number of families have been driven out.

Fish markets have been moved to Mitimingi, Kabondo, Pilimahonda and other areas, while affected people stutter as they don’t know what else to do to earn an income. “It’s very difficult to find another business at this point,” the mother-of-three said.

“In the past you could buy fish at 40,000/- and be sure of a profit of 5,000/- or more per day, but now I don’t get any money because our area is flooded and the fishermen don’t fish more,” she explained. , highlighting how dire the situation is for the commercial fishing community.

Unlike before, boats cannot reach the relocated fish markets, while fishermen get low levels of catch, so buying fish is 10,000/- and selling is 2,000/ – at the end of the day, she explained.

Mlasi started the business in 2000, remembering that back then business was good but living conditions are now tough. “Before, I used to buy fish for 100,000/- and I earned between 15,000/- and 20,000/- per day as profit. But now things are different and life is getting harder and harder.

Dinna Jackson, also a fishmonger, said the business environment is currently depressed which is unsettling stakeholders as fish is all they have done their entire adult lives. And the situation has come as schools reopen, preventing a number of traders and fishermen from sending children back to school.

Zabibu Hamis, another trader, said that after the floodwaters receded, the fish ponds collapsed and fish returned to the lake as traders moved from the shore.

“Capital has collapsed, you don’t bring in money, you give in and you end up eating what’s left of the capital. Some went to cultivate cassava, etc. ; there are children who have not been to school but you can’t send him without shoes or a school uniform,” she said.

She says they have taken up the business of selling food and embroidering fabrics, but these are slow trades, unlike the more dynamic fish trade.

Kibirizi Fish Market Traders Chairman Machumu Yenda said the biggest challenge is finding reliable sources of fish as bad weather is inhospitable to fishing. The fish products we see now are very small from the Kagunga shore to Kibirizi, and fishermen have to go much further into the lake for a good catch, he said.

A good part of the people of Kigoma depend on Lake Tanganyika and the situation is getting more complicated, the local government official noted, appealing for help from the government to find better tools for the fishermen to alleviate their current plight.

In the past, the market could receive three tons of supply per day but ends up receiving half a ton per day, which reduces the production of individuals, regions and has an impact on the economy at large, a- he declared.

Suzanna Ezekiel, who hires fishing gear from fishermen and collects fish to clean them before throwing them on the market, said expectations of being somewhere in the value chain from fish to market are collapsing. During the rainy season, when the cold weather comes or calms down, there is no place to fish because the area is flooded.

A fisherman, George Kalea, said that due to the increase in depth, fishermen need to get better gear but they don’t have the resources to get such fishing gear.

Prisca Mziray, a researcher at the Tanzanian Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI), said the wind speed conducive to creating waves that change temperature currents in the lake was lacking with rising temperatures, pushing fish to lower levels of the lake.

“The surface of the water is warm, the middle is cooler and the bottom is colder,” she said, noting that the wind triggers currents that mix the different layers of water and fish can climb to the upper parts.

Increased activities such as agriculture near the shores of the lake increase the rate of degradation of fish breeding grounds, reducing fish stocks, while untreated industrial water also harms breeding ability.

Ritha Mlingi, the regional fisheries officer, said the state of the fisheries is unsatisfactory as fish products have declined with the value of the catch dropping significantly. Some species of fish have declined and others have disappeared completely, she said /

The current level of fish is still undetermined, she said, referring to the need for research on the matter but also saying that climate change has contributed to the decline of fish. They are among the species most vulnerable to change, she said.

The increase in energy consumption in fishing activities was another challenge, corresponding to the growing number of those who live off the lake. This leads to difficulties in framing the regulatory requirements according to which fish are caught from one kilometer from the shore.

“Anyone caught fishing below is engaging in illegal fishing,” she said, noting that regional authorities had relocated female entrepreneurs selling fish products in local markets. Those in water-covered drying areas had to build new areas, she said.

Dr Selemani Jafo, Minister of State in the Office of the Vice President (Union and Environment), said climate change has caused Lake Tanganyika’s water levels to rise by two metres, which is dangerous for activities economy of the region.

“We are currently carrying out research while encouraging people to plant trees around the lake,” he said, showing the difficulties faced by authorities in controlling the ecosystem around Lake Tanganyika, the second largest African lake. and the second deepest freshwater lake in the world.

This story is produced under WAN-IFRA, Women in News (WIN) Social Impact Reporting Initiative (SIRI).


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