One of the richest biodiversity in Africa can be found in Lake Malawi, one of the African Great Lakes and one of the most amazing ecosystems on the planet. It has more than 1000 species of fish, more than any other lake in the world, making it a very important heritage in Earth’s history.
Besides being home to so many unique endemic species, Lake Malawi is the main source of income for thousands of people who live around it, in Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique. This makes the latest concerns surrounding the sustainability of commercial fishing important not only for the wildlife but for the people who depend on it, most of them already being at the edge of poverty.
Why Is Lake Malawi Under Ecological Threat?
This immense pool of freshwater has been providing food and a means of living to the communities around it for thousands of years. What makes the latest statistics so concerning for environmentalists?
It is known that the increase in Earth’s population and industrialization have been two of the main causes for the decline in the wildlife population, scarce natural resources and more subtle effect of these factors, like the changes in terrain, wildlife behavior or surviving mechanisms of both humans and animals.
Deforestation around Lake Malawi has led to unstable terrain and sediments ending up in the lake’s waters. This led to reduced light penetration and less oxygen getting to the aquatic plants on the bottom of the lake, practically reducing food sources for the fish. Over the years, the fish caught by local fishermen have been of lower quality and lower in quantity, showing a decline in some of the major species of Lake Malawi.
Lake Malawi’s endangered fish make up about 9% of the total fish species, a concerning number shown in the latest release of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Some of the species that have dramatically declined in numbers are some of the most valuable sources of food for the surrounding communities.
Being aware of the ecological threats enables us to search for solutions in time. Unfortunately, Lake Malawi’s endangered fish are a result of changes in the world that will take time to shift.