Less and better fishing lasts the longest
Freshwater fishing in Congo provides employment and is a source of proteins for human nutrition. However, harmful fishing practices and overfishing undermine its potential.
The DR Congo has a lot of water: 3.5% of its territory is occupied by water, covering half of the total freshwater in Africa. While all these inland waters are teeming with fish, these huge fish stocks also have their limits, especially when the growing Congolese population has more and more mouths to feed and when more and more poor people are looking for an income.
Congolese researchers - with Belgian support - examined the freshwater fishery in their country. First of all, they observed a rapid increase in the number of fishermen. By way of illustration: in 1995 there were 26,308 fishermen active on Lake Tanganyika; in 2011 their number had risen to 51,625.
Deterrent fishing practices, such as the use of mosquito nets, also appeared to be widespread. The fine mesh of these nets means lots of juvenile fish are caught and lost. Other practices destroy the spawning grounds where fish reproduce. Some fishermen even use dynamite or poisonous plants and products.
It has become harder for fishermen to catch enough fish, as indicated by the analysis of two fish species in Lake Tanganyika. A number of fish species even seem to have disappeared. It turns out the Congolese fishermen do not know the size of the fish stocks and have lost their traditional knowledge.
After all, (sustainable) freshwater fishery has an enormous potential of 700,000 tons of fish per year and offers a fully-fledged alternative to bush meat.
According to the researchers, there is an urgent need to put a stop to overfishing. After all, (sustainable) freshwater fishery has an enormous potential of 700,000 tons of fish per year and offers a fully-fledged alternative to bush meat.
Yet, in order to realise this potential, the government must strictly apply the existing legislation and adapt it to current trends. The provincial ministries must set up specific units to monitor fishing (and harmful practices) to make sure fishermen are better informed about the legislation and strict action is taken against offenders.
Furthermore, the scientists are requesting more funding for research. More statistical data on fish catches are essential to monitor changes in efficiency. They also recommend reviving traditional knowledge of fishing and promoting fish farming.
See also the original policy document (in French)
The research for this article was carried out with the support of CEBioS (= 'Capacities for Biodiversity and Sustainable Development'). This programme is financed by the Belgian Development Cooperation and is housed in the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS). CEBioS supports a number of countries such as Benin, DR Congo, Burundi and Vietnam in the development of indicators to monitor their biodiversity. This should allow them to better report on their biodiversity within the UN Convention on Biodiversity.
Within CEBioS, ten people follow up on 'biodiversity and development', including support for research, information, awareness-raising, policy advice and publications on biodiversity and development in the South. CEBioS also organises short internship visits in Belgium and on-site workshops for institutions in developing countries. Besides, it makes the colonial archives of the former national parks accessible by digitising them.