Climate impacts could put major fishery, food security at risk in East Africa

Climate change could put a major fishery – and the millions of people who depend on it – at risk in one of the world’s most vulnerable regions, according to researchers.

“Fisheries are important to food security throughout the world,” said Sarah Ivory, assistant professor of geosciences at Penn State. “Developing nations, like those surrounding Lake Tanganyika in eastern Africa, depend on fish as an important protein source. It’s also an important part of their cultural identity.”

Lake Tanganyika is home to small pelagic fish, known locally as dagaa, that feed millions of people in Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Zambia. The fish’s conservation is crucial to the food security and economy of rapidly growing and largely impoverished segments of these nations, but certain climatic changes may place the fishery at risk.

Dagaa feed on algae and plankton, which means greater algae production in the lake results in more fish. Understanding how this aquatic food web responds to external forces, like climate, is critical for identifying vulnerabilities and maintaining healthy fish stocks. But until now, limited information existed on how Lake Tanganyika may respond to such forces.


A fishing boat on Lake Tanganyika

A fishing boat on Lake Tanganyika. The small pelagic fish, known locally as dagaa, found in Lake Tanganyika feed millions of people and are crucial to the food security and economy of rapidly growing and largely impoverished segments of Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Zambia. Certain climatic changes may place the fishery at risk.

IMAGE: Sarah Ivory

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