Creating a New Protected Area for Endemic Cichlid Conservation in Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania.

Timeframe: 2022 - 2025
Country/Region: Tanzania
Partner: Shoal

Lake Tanganyika has one of the highest levels of endemic fish diversity in the world. This includes more than 250 cichlid species, of which 98% are endemic. The lake’s ecology and its unique biodiversity are threatened by overfishing, invasive species, and habitat loss and degradation. This project aims to create the first protected area in the lake (within the Tanzanian border) designated specifically for freshwater biodiversity conservation. The project, implemented in partnership by the Shoal initiative and by the local organization Sustain Lake Tanganyika, will enhance breeding success, increase populations, and improve the conservation status of endemic fishes by creating a no-take zone in the new freshwater protected area (FPA) around Nkwonde Island, Tanzania.

The FPA will be designed and managed to reduce the primary threat of overfishing that is causing species declines and will serve as sanctuary habitat to support the persistence of endemic fishes. The dedicated zone can help to increase successful breeding to a rate that will recover and sustain fish populations in the area, leading to an overall improvement in the fish catch in surrounding areas and enhancing the probability of the long-term survival of target species in the wild.

The main objectives of the project are the following:

  • Establish a new freshwater protected area in Lake Tanganyika surrounding Nkondwe Island.
  • Design a reserve management plan and apply its prescriptions according to the plan.
  • Enhance the ecological conditions on the island and establish small scale ecotourism facilities to support the financial needs of the reserve.
  • Increase regional knowledge and produce implementation manuals based on project activities and outcomes, in order to expand the application of effective conservation methods throughout the lake.