Ecology of the pelagic fish resources of Lake Tanganyika
Most of the scientific knowledge on the pelagic fish (the clupeids Stolothrissa tanganicae and Limnothrissa miodon and the centropomid Lates stappersii) of Lake Tanganyika is from research carried out in localised areas. This makes it difficult to extend the results to the whole lake. Consequently, there is the need to study the pelagic fish resources on a lake-wide basis using the same data collection procedures. Within the framework of an international fishery research project, data from the commercial fisheries targeting the pelagic fish stocks were simultaneously collected at various sampling sites in the riparian countries. Fishery-independent data were also obtained from lake-wide research surveys. The life histories of the three fish species appear to be similar throughout the lake. However, fish distribution across the lake is very uneven. The clupeid S. tanganicae mostly occur in the northern half of the lake and is much reduced in southern areas. This appears to be a recent contraction of the distribution range of this species. Limnothrissa miodon is more evenly distributed than S. tanganicae. The two species have a different inshore-offshore, size-related distribution across the lake. Nursery grounds of the first are close to the shore while those of S. tanganicae are in open, pelagic waters. With increase in size, S. tanganicae tend to move inshore while large L. miodon display the opposite movement. Lates stappersii stock, although relatively common, tends to be at higher concentration in the deep, steep central and southern basins. The feeding ecology of L. stappersii varies depending on the area and prey availability, but is mainly based on S. tanganicae and pelagic shrimps. Local occurrence of S. tanganicae is associated with that of copepod prey. The fish stocks experience different exploitation rates across the lake. While the fishing pressure is not excessive in the most of the lake areas, in others local overfishing is taking place. The biological characteristics of the pelagic fish species are discussed for the management of the lake fisheries. Fisheries management options are formulated on the basis of the assessment of the current exploitation levels.