This article is part of a general theme called “protection, from dream to reality”; to consult the presentation of the theme and its composition, click on the green button below The photos are by Kirit Veitha except special mention (click to enlarge); some photos are very old and taken from a silver medium. Please respect the rights to distribute and copy texts, photos and videos (see “About”, site home page).
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Gérard:01 Hello Kirit . I am very happy that a child of the lake-and one of the pioneers of of the ornamental fish on Lake Tanganyika – agreed to give us his opinion on the difficult subject of the protection of species. We have been exchanging for several years on the internet, and I have already published a translation of one of your articles : “ the quest for Tropheus duboisi Maswa It is a on this websiteand was published in a major French journal (AFC 391 September 2019 ) . For readers who don’t know you well, can you tell us about yourself first ?
Kirit :I was born in Mwanza – this is a big city on Lake Victoria. My late brother, Jayant, was born in Musoma, also on Lake Victoria. My parents moved to Kigoma when we were both still little kids. We did our primary education in Kigoma, enjoying swimming in Lake Tanganyika, every weekend. Our neighbor and father of our good friend, was very fond of fishing and also owned a small boat. Sometimes we used to go out with him just to enjoy an hour of boat ride. My friend’s father had a habit of casting fishing line (without a rode) by swinging the line with his hands, about 2 metres with several hooks, and casted or threw this in the water. This swinging was very dangerous, as it passed over our heads, missing by millimeters. One time, his assistant got hit and a hook lodged on his head! So whenever we went with him fishing, one of us would stay on guard and shout “heads down” when the line casting was
My father was a watch repairer in Kigoma, but also knew how to repair gramophones (old record players), pressure- lamps called Petromax, lanterns, etc. He was a good technician. But in the past, he had also worked with his father’s (my granddad) on their Gold mines around Musoma area, and so had a good mining experience. After years of toiling at their mine, nothing worked. The gold they mined was very little and so they decided to quit. This is when my father decided to come to Kigoma and try another business, and settling with watch-repairing business. It was a hand-to-mouth business, but yet he managed to bring us up nicely and provided education to us. My brother, Jayant, studied aircraft maintenance engineering – AME – in India (Tamil Nadu) and I did business studies, including accounting. I wanted to become a pilot then, but financial constraints did not allow.
G : 02 Before opening our subject , I would like to discuss with you two topical subjects ; first, covid, which affects the whole world : have you and your family had any problems ? What health impact on Tanzania, on its economy ?
K : Covid – a curse! I personally think it is a man-made virus! Last year, my son Jiten, got mild symptoms – fever, sore throat, loss of taste, etc. but recovered well. This year in January, I got sick and had these covid symptoms also. I am hypertensive since few years, but suddenly my BP dropped to dangerously low levels, so low that I collapsed in a restaurant we had gone for dinner. Low BP is one of the symptoms of Covid. I had low grade fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, etc – all covid symptoms. Fortunately, I recovered after a while, losing a lot of weight too.
In February, my wife and my sister-law (Jayant’s wife) got mild covid symptoms too and recovered well. My niece, Dr. Sonia (daughter of Jayant) is an eye surgeon and she got very bad covid compared to all of us. She lost smell and taste for almost a week! But she also recovered well. Mostly, we did steaming and used ayurvedic medicine (indian). This helped us a lot.
So far, we have been lucky as Covid has not affected many people, especially in the rural areas. And as such, no problems have been reported. Our new President has taken serious steps to counter Covid, including ordering vaccines. And also by asking people to be careful. But this new wave is coming now, which has caused many more deaths and infections all over, and so we got to be extra vigilant and careful. Northern cities of Arusha and Moshi have been hit very hard. We hear that all hospitals are full and there is a shortage of oxygen. My birth place, Mwanza, has also been very much affected. This is all because of being on border with Kenya, where Covid has caused a big problem since last year.
There has not been much economic impact due to Covid. Tourism has been has been hit very hard, which has affected hotels and all tourist-related services.
G : 03 The news of the lake is also rising waters that made many damage then even that even though the rainy season had not yet start ; this phenomenon is not new , but is a source of concern : what do you think of this evolution ? In your opinion, what are the causes of the increased level of e has ux Lake ? Does this have to do with changes in the climate ?
K :Yes, the water levels on the Lakes Tanganyika, Victoria and Malawi have risen to very high levels. We cannot say this is due to climate changes because we have not noticed such on the land. More rains were experienced, but we have not heard anybody hit by these rainfalls. Agriculture also has been normal and productive. Nobody knows the actual reasons for this high level rise in all lakes.
I remember well that when I was small, somewhere in 1960’s, the water level in Tanganyika had gone high and flooded the port and railway station. I also remember about sand bags placed at the port to curb further water rise. Many villages on the shores have suffered with loss of property etc. But to my knowledge from what I have seen on the lake, it looks like many, many years back the water level must have been very high. Water level signs can be seen on rocky hills along the lake (it is believed that water level was 10m higher than now long time back – ref: Hydrology Of Lake Tanganyika). I have seen other evidence also on this theory. If anyone has been to Ujiji – a historical town near Kigoma, and visited the place where Stanley found Dr. Livingstone – one will see just near this place, stairs going down – on the lake side. I think at this time, around 1870’s, the water level was more than what we have now. Livingstone was found sitting under a mango tree on the shores of the lake when Stanley arrived. Why would Livingstone sit and enjoy far away from the shore? I think this meeting place was close to the lake, probably on the shore. Nobody would sit almost 1 kilometer away, and maybe enjoy a local drink, from the beach when he is at the lake. Talking positively, I think the lake level rise is good for our fish – especially the cichlids living in shallow waters.
G : 04 In the world of lake fishing you are therefore a pioneer but many hobby aquarists do not associate your name with the specific species. However, you have discovered several cichlids during these many years of fishing….
K : Yes, we have found, discovered, and re-discovered many, many species, especially in 1980s and early 1990s. Not only this, but we were the ones to successfully collect them and export them. Our efforts resulted in initiating and creating interest to many authors, who started coming to the lake and make books.The names were also given by us.The list can be very long, but few important ones are:
Tr. Kigoma, Tr. ujiji/katonga, Tr. malagarasi, Tr. kaseke, Tr. bulombora, Tr. duboise maswa, Tr. duboise white, Tr. kagunga, Tr. green wimple, Tr. karilani, Tr. red (the ones called bulu point), Tr. red mabilibili, Tr. sibwesa, Tr. yellow (Kaiser), Tr. mpimbwe, Tr. kabwe, Tr. kipili, Tr. red rainbow, Tr. kalambo, Pet. Red, Pet. Kazumbe, Pet. Orange top (orthognathus), Pet. Green (macrognathus), Pet. Moshi, L.walteri, C. furcifer kigoma, C, furcifer green kabogo, C. furcifer blue kabogo, C. furcifer ikola, L. comp. red, L. comp black kabogo, L. comp kigoma, N. cylindricus, N. nkambae, Oph. White head (as we called then), L. walteri, Call. Gresaki (pleurospilus), L. furcifer, Gobies, Spathodus marlieri, Lampri tanganikanus, Julidochromis kaseke, and :
Tropheus duboisi Maswa
A compressiceps black
Tropheus Green Wimple : we also found another interesting Tropheus was similar to Tropheus Malagarasi; but this one had a “lire” tail similar to Tropheus poli. That’s why called it Tropheus Gree, Wimple. The “old floks” who worked in the cichlid business in the early 1980s will no doubt remember this name.
Petrochromis Kazumbe : we would like to mention here that during this period we also found Petrocromis Kazumbe whose local name is “Mawesa” (palm oil). Kazumbe (George Kazumbe’s elder brother) was our bets diver and he was the one first found the fish, so we decided to name him “Petrochromis Kazumbe”.
Cyathopharinx foal blue
You will notice that nowhere we have used our own names, this is our nature. I know if it was one of those name hungry guys from out of Africa, there would have been several names like Tr. peteri, Tr.johni, Pet. micheali, etc!!!! L. walteri and Call gresaki (pleurospilus) were names given by us – Walter was our distributor and Gresak was our customer. And by naming fish by location was a big error by us. Because it made very easy for those foreigners (poachers) who came to work on the lake covertly, to find the fish we had found. Unlike us, these sameforeigners kept a big secret of those few fish they found. We even revealed to those hungry authors exact locations by actually taking them there!!! Yes, we were fools, indeed. And these same authors never even mentioned us in the books they made. Another attempt to keep us under the carpet!
About aquarists and other people not associating our name – it is a common phenomenon that whatever is found by locals is systematically pushed under the carpet due to unkown reasons. Even authors never mention us despite using these names all the time. It might be that all these people would never like to give any credit to us locals – reason??? We are not birds of a feather!! Is that they want and are hungry always to get credit themselves, even if it is a false credit. People who have never been to Africa may also think that how can these savage locals find anything themselves??!!!! Yes, savage, many still think this – meaning wild and with no sense or intelligence. Others are hunting for their ambition of “name making” – like those authors who steal information from locals and publish books illegally giving all credit to themselves alone. Has anybody noticed any credit given to us locals in any of these fish books? We ourselves have helped authors with providing information and also taking them to locations – free of cost, but never find this information once the book is published. The hungry guys take all the credit assuming locals will never know or mind. We do know such things and are fully aware on what is going on, but we do not have any proper platform where such factual points can be aired or spoken out. And this is well-known to these hungry and information poachers, and they take advantage. Here, despite being the source of all beautiful fish, we do not get any sort of fish magazines, we do not get any new or old fish books, we do not get any information on what transpires in several meetings, symposiums, conventions, etc. People may talk anything and audience will believe this. But when a non-local assists, however small, his/her name is there on all publications, without fail. At times, it may also be the false superiority complex lodged deep inside these name-making hungry and greedy people.
Now we have internet and social media which gives us a platform to speak and express ourselves. These problems I have spoken and mentioned at various places, but again, the non-african audience would just rub off this – maybe again thinking” how can this local guy speak the truth or how can this local guy find any fish”. As also in this article, I am not sure how many would believe in what I am saying. We are here on the lake for years and years…and there comes somebody from outside Africa, works for few days…and makes a book and also speak to people in meetings etc and all believe in him!!!! Cruel world…..but the life goes on……
All of the fish listed above and other fish have been found or rediscovered by us and most of them have been named by us and we know that everyone who has known us during these years(1980s) will agree. We also know that many fish were never known before and so we can say with certainty that we did find them, but we never got any credit or any mention of this immense contribution and hard work in any book or article. It may be because we are locals? Authors mention again and again fish like Pet. kazumbe, Pet. moshi, Tr. Ujiji, Tr. kaseke, etc (endless list) but they never mention who discovered and named them. Racialism at its best, probably.
G : 05 In 1980, you established one of the oldest fishery and export (ornamental fish) in the lake, Aqua Products Limited (https://www.tzcichlids.com/how-we-started.html ) . Why this decision ? Why this attraction for ornamental fish ? What to retain from these first contacts with the cichlids ?
K :In 1980, we became interested in starting a fish processing company in Kigoma and therefore acquired a large place (2 acres) at the Bangwe area on the shores of the lake. We wanted to catch the dagaa , a sardine similar to a fish from the genus Stolothrissa tanganicae and from the family Clupeidae . So we started fishing and processing by salting, drying and packaging in small bags ready to be sold. While doing this we came across some very colorful fish as seen from our boat and while snorkeling. We grabbed some and put them in a little glass tub. We wanted information on how to keep these fish, if there was a market, and if so, how to export them alive. We bought a book explaining the basics of aquarium and fish farming. Then we wrote to some embassies to check if they could give us contacts of importers. And yes, we got few contacts who had business importing live fish. It was the days of letter writing, posting and weeks of waiting for a response. An importer got interested and sent us a picture of the Tropheus Red moorii, as we called it, not knowing where it was found. He wanted it in any quantity and that prompted us to find this fish.
We had an aluminum boat (an abandoned MV Liemba lifeboat ), modified to use an outboard motor, which we used on our expeditions in search of tropical fish. We only knew the dagaa , the sangara (Nile perch) and the Kuhe ( Boulenerochromis microlepis ) which we later learned that it was the largest cichlid in the world! We used the normal nets to collect the fish as the monofilament nets were unknown and unavailable to us at that time, and we continued to improvise it every day. We had bought masks and fins in Dar es Salaam of different sizes . We had temporarily employed 5 people and one of them was a boat driver. One of them was Kazumbe and the driver of the boat was Moshi – do these names tell you something ?
Later, we were to find a little book with some pictures of fish from Lake Tanganyika, for example. N. brichardi, N. leleupi, H. horei and N. elongatus . There were only rough photos and no other information at all. Of course, books were available, but provided only scientific information and nothing for an amateur. Even such books were hard to find in Tanzania.
Our first expedition was only around the Kigoma region, including Bangwe Bay , southern and northern parts of Kigoma. We found a lot of fish , but we couldn’t even know if they belonged to the cichlid family or not, nor did we know anything about this family of fish. We weren’t even sure if these fish were of any interest in the market, but they were beautiful, colorful and we knew they would look good in any aquarium. Our main goal was to find Tr. Red Moorii! We continued our expeditions and covered many areas including Katabe , Katonga, Ujiji, Kaseke , Karago and Malagarasi and took months to do so.
To identify fish and locations, we drew the approximate shape of the fish we found, recording colors and species , and noted the area where it was found on the map to help us track if necessary. We have continued to name most of these fish by their location and so you find names like Tr. Kigoma, Tr. Ujiji, Tr. Malagarasi , and so on and are still in use. Within a year we had made several such expeditions and finally found Red Tr. Moorii around the Mahale – Rubugwe area and named it Tropheus Red Moorii. But while searching for this fish, we found many other beautiful fish also. Tr. red moorii, as we called then, was exported to the German importer, but we never got any payment – we were scammed!
Then we went further south to Ikola and found Yellow Tr (Kaiser). Also found other fish. And we started using MV Liemba for expeditions far south to Kipili , Namansi , Wampembe , Kala , Kasanga and Kalambo . We carried an inflatable boat to move from place to place. We found many new and good fish on our first trip to Kipili and surrounding areas including the islands and up to Kalambo where we found the most colorful tropheus and named it Tr. Red Rainbow. Similar tropheus were also found around Kasanga , but not that red and that’s why we called it Red Rainbow. We had Tr. green rainbow found around Kala . Very beautiful Alt. compressiceps gold head were found around Kasanga and most colorful brichardi which was then named dafodil . N. nkambae, cylindricus, etc all were found this way. And so, all fish in the market in 1980s’ were from us, either discovered or re-discovered by us – from the north border to south border. And unlike the foreigners who hide the locations, we foolishly kept it open and named fish by their actual locations. Those foreigners are smarties!!!!
G : 06 In fact, at your beginnings, you knew the Cichlids during a subsistence fishery, very important for the populations bordering the lake ; Do you think that this fishing is now a danger for the protection of ornamental fish, for example with the use of certain techniques ( fine mesh nets , etc. )
K : Fish in the cichlid family used for subsistence fishing are C. frontosa, B. microlepis, Pet. kazumbe, etc. Not many and these are caught by local fishermen by line and hook method. Later, ornamental fish people also started catching these using the mono-filament nets, mostly for exports and also for eating at home. B. microlepis is called by us “lake chicken” because it tastes like chicken and is one of the best fish for eating. In Burundi, there are restaurants specializing in cooking these fish – locally called Kuhe.
Besides, local fishermen cannot catch cichlids using the normal methods, only C. frontosa are caught by line and hook. And so, they are safe.
G : 07 A few words about the main activities of your company …
K : As already known, we are collectors and exporters since 1980. We export all over the world, but to professional and reputable importers only. So far, we have never exported to Russia because we have not found a good contact there. I am now semi-retired and kids – Reema and Jiten are handling the business. I help them where necessary, but I am happy and proud to say that they are doing great. Surviving on this business only alone cannot help and so we have a safari business – Roaring Tours and Safaris, where we offer our services to tourists who would like to visit the national parks in Tanzania, especially, Gombe, Mahale, and Katavi. Besides this, Jiten also imports cars, phones, etc and sells them locally. These efforts help to support and subsidize family income. We also had a nice beach hotel in Kigoma – Aqua Lodge and organized tours/safaris using our safari company – Sunset Tours, an oil mill, and a farm. These used to support us financially in a good way. Surviving on Live Fish business alone is not possible and at a later stage on this article, I will explain why.
Covid 19 has really caused a big problem to our business. Last year, when Covid was starting, all flights stopped and so did our businesses. We did not do business for almost 5 months. Now flights have started slowly, but not very reliable. Frequent cancellations, failing to get good connections, difficulty in getting booking confirmation, etc are problems we face these days. These problems occur because airlines do not get good passenger load due covid related travel restrictions in many countries. Airlines have also increased freight charges to almost double or more. Swissair closed shop in Tanzania because of this. Europe, England, and USA are getting into better situation now, but Africa has just started seeing the 3rd wave and many are suffering. Vaccine in Tanzania is still being decided and we do not know when it will be available. Same problem is also with our safari business as very few tourists come these days. The future remains uncertain for both businesses and so we are trying to find another business, probably into manufacturing, which is not dependent on flights.
We only export to importers, the reliable and honest ones.
G : 09 You are a “committed” actor since, for example, in 1998, you participated in the meeting of the Strategic Action Program for the sustainable management of Lake Tanganyiika; You have a long experience in fishing activities, so two questions: have you noticed a change in the species fished (availability, difficulty, etc.) and changes in the demands of your customers?
K : A big change, yes! And here I would like to inform you something which many of you may not have known. I wrote in my article in Tanganyika Magazine about a German customer called John, who later started collecting and exporting fish himself, way back in early 1980s’. Then, we also had other people coming from outside Africa and starting this business of Live fish here. Many used locals to conduct their business and visiting Tanzania several times every year. These people are very strong financially and have better knowledge on fish because they have an easy access to books, information, and other material compared to the locals (at least before internet). It is easy for them to get good fish food, medicines, equipment, etc. from their countries. While such things are not at all accessible to us, the locals.
BUT the most affecting situation is that these people become sellers and buyers at the same time. Because they collect, export and import to their own facilities! While we locals, we can only export, and this also to very few importers by submitting to their demands. So now comes the fish pricing issue. While we may get 5.00 or 10.00 USD for a fish, these people can get 10 times more than us because they sell these themselves in their countries – to retailers, wholesalers, hobbyists, etc . At times, they may get even more if they get their hands on those rare fish. Some of these people breed fish in their countries and sell as F0 (cheating). Because they are also exporters, people believe that those are real F0 by thinking that birds of a feather never cheat!!!This way, they make more and more money
One day, in late 1980s’, we had some Japanese film crew going to Gombe park , staying at our hotel and using our services. They wanted to film a little about our fish business and requested to show them our fish house. We had many fish, including C. frontosa kigoma. When they saw these Frontosas, they got very excited and asked us if we knew the price of these in Japan. There was no way we can know this, we told them. So we were told that in Japan, one frontosa was sold at 800.00 USD!!! And what did we get from importers? Not even 10.00 USD. It was very difficult to really understand and believe that this was true – 800.00 USD for 1 fish!!! But it was true, not only Japan, but other countries in Europe, USA, etc as well. These were those times when we were 2 or 3 exporters (only we were local…others were foreigners) on the lake and so most of these fish were in a big demand – supply being not so big. Also, this was that time when so many new and re-discovered fish were found, collected and exported. Imagine what price the importers were getting at that time – all new fish!! But we only got prices between 2.00 USD for gobies, 3.00-6.00 for Tropheus, Lamprologus, Petrochromis, etc and 8.00-10.00 for C. frontosa etc. This is called real exploitation. Colonialism at its best!!! Rich exploiting the poor!!
Another important point to note is that the toughest part in this business is on our side, the collectors and exporters. Hard work is done underwater when collecting, then looking after the fish collected, taking best care to treat and heal those fish which got hurt while collecting – an experience very different than what the importers know. De-compression also is very tricky and also very hard work, throughout. Transporting fish in bulk (big quantity) from the lake to Dar es salaam, is also very hard and tricky. Once the truck leaves Kigoma, we have to keep running generator which runs the air pump, for as long as it takes to reach Dar. Many times, truck breaks down, or generator stops working, truck meets an accident, and so many unfortunate incidences happens on the way. The tanks in the truck carry a lot of water and so it has to travel on slower speed. If all goes well, it takes 48 hours to reach Dar (distance of almost 1800 km). Again, carefully off-loading the very exhausted and shocked fish into our tanks in Dar. Again looking after fish, medicating, feeding, etc. Finally, packing for export after preparing fish, water, etc so that fish can stay live and healthy for those long shipping hours. All this is done by experience and good understanding of the situation – very different than what importers have to do. It is hard work, and what do we get in return? Peanuts! Exploitation of poor by rich!!!
It is a very different story with foreigners doing (or were doing) business here. They got/get the real price in their country because they themselves are sellers and buyers. And also, they do not have to agree with those very rigid conditions set by importers. For locals, many importers ask to ship fish first, only then they will pay!!! Has anybody heard anywhere in the world where one can get something without payment? In Africa, YES!! And under such situation, once you ship out, you are under their control. They will pay half, saying that the other half died!! So greedy and exploitive people. At times, they will not pay anything. In early 1990s’, we lost a huge sum of money to a German.
When we were in Kigoma, we used to have permanent divers with whom we used to work for fish collection. These days we buy fish from freelance divers because it is difficult to manage and supervise permanent divers/staff from Dar. So when these divers have fish, they offer us and we buy them if we wanted. We have tried to discourage them not to collect endangered fish, like Tr. dubosie maswa, etc, but they still collect. If we do not buy from them, others will buy, especially those greedy foreigners.
G 10 Since we are talking about endangered species, can we make a point? How is the situation developing in Tanzania?
K :As far as we have foreigners deeply involved here in this business, nobody can find a good solution. Like I said above, these foreigners get much more money than we locals, they invest more into the business and in return they take/export a very big quantity of fish. Compared to them, we locals collect and export a small quantity only. Example – we have foreigners here from Fareast who export C. frontosa moba/kitumba in thousands! Now, if one compares this with us locals, we export in very small numbers. Big reason for locals to export fewer fish is because of the market. We have to work very hard to get orders from reliable importers. While the foreigners have their own outlets in their countries where they can export in any numbers they want, and then sell them easily to retailers, wholesalers, hobbyist, breeders, etc. Big market for them.
In my article, I mentioned John, with whom we found Tr. duboise maswa, if you remember? Later, he started doing this business himself, but starting from Kalemie in Congo. He could not get a licence for Tanzania at that time. He stole our best divers, including Kazumbe, and illegally collected thousands of Tr. duboise maswa – in 1980s’ all the time. While we shipped approx. 100, he shipped in thousands. This WAS the beginning of problems with Tr. duboise maswa – not because of us locals!! Same with other fish like L. leleupi from Karilani (the best coloured ones) area which are also almost gone now. These days we see small C. frontosa moba/kitumba because bigger ones have either gone to deeper waters or they are no more – result of very huge collection by the far-east guys.
Greedy foreigners invest here in hundreds of thousands of dollars and so they need to collect many fish to export to make their business work. Locals have no money and so cannot invest. Locals invest little mostly in buying tanks, pumps, generators, water pumps, etc – but all in small numbers only. I remember one foreign exporter closed business in the nearby country and offered to sell the property – it was worth quarter million dollars!!!
G 11 : In 2015, you took part in a discussion on the net with the major local players (fishermen, exporters) ; this was a moment quite excep tional ; I remember that all participants deplored great disorganization of s activities fishing caused by many fishermen isolated, ” not offici al s ” that is to say, often without permission , and not respecting u practices diovisual of fisheries : has this situation changed ?
K : Nothing has changed, yet. In fact, it is getting worse now. And this is not because of us (locals) this is mainly because of foreigners who work behind the backs of locals. There are many here. The question is WHY must these foreigners do this business here by having local guys as fronts? When will foreigners stop exploiting Africa? They have big financial muscles which they use here and we cannot match that.
Foreigners also try to interfere in our business by talking to officials about stopping our business (the locals), etc. We call this economic sabotaging the locals. Trying to interfere in poor peoples’ business is a crime and we will not tolerate it and we are ready to fight tooth and nail. This business is our bread and butter, why should a foreigner/s interfere and try to stop us instead of simply minding their own business? So the locals are under attack!!
G 12 : During this meeting, it appeared that the disruption of fishing practices was so important that the fishermen welcomed a proposal from a participant to set up a plenary meeting and you were considered as the reference for setting up this meeting; that took place (I am thinking of Dar el Salam), what happened?
K : We did arrange to form an association and I was elected as the Chairman. The constitution we made (designed mainly by me) greatly discouraged foreigners running or doing this business – directly or indirectly. The local exporters here who are stooges of foreigners shared this constitution with their “masters” Now this made foreigners very unhappy and quickly discouraged all those local front guys working for these foreigners in joining this association. The locals connected with them act like their puppets – already colonized!
G 14 : As evidenced by the situation of Tropheus duboisi Maswa, for example, it has been observed that, for quite a long time, the protection of species has been a difficult subject even though it is a heritage of great value and of which global. . Solving this problem requires a commitment from all players in the industry .. start with those of the lake, those most concerned … and then we will continue.
K : NO! The first actors are foreigners, they must STOP doing this business here, either directly or indirectly. I have mentioned above that the biggest problems of fish disappearing started with the greedy foreigners collecting in thousands by working covertly, since 1980s. Foreigners must also stop interfering into locals businesses.
G 15 : The first idea is the regulation, that is to say the prohibition of fishing for endangered species and the regulation for others; this option was chosen in the south of the lake because Tropheus Moorii Ilangi and Altolamprologus calvus yellow were indirectly protected by the regulations adopted by the Sumbu park which integrates the bay of Nkamba. Before protecting fish, the idea was to see national parks as an economic support for development through tourism. This may seem to be a point in common with Tanzania which has considerable wealth with many national parks; what do you think of this way?
K :The FIRST regulation must be to stop all foreigners doing this business here. And interfering into local matters. They should be importers only and remain importers. All exploitation must stop immediately. All covert action/business must stop.
All species around Mahale and Gombe parks are protected. Few are collected silently and exported, but this protection has helped, just like in Sumbu park in Zambia. All fish collection and fishing has stopped completely around Gombe area where we had first discovered A. comp. red – original.
G 16 : To be effective, a regulator should be part of an approach consistent with s states bordering the lake which, moreover should have the medium ‘s control …Do these means exist ? …
K : We have not come to a point where we need a regulator and also, we do not need one as of now. When the time comes, we, the locals, will manage to find one. We would NEVER want a foreign regulator!!
G17 : It is well understood that the authorities of each country have multiple trade- offs to make and that the allocation of financial resources corresponds to the main priorities ; The states bordering the lake have already set up structures (example : Lake Tanganyika Authority, LTA) whose objective is to obtain a sustainable management of the resources of Lake Tanganyika, in particular subsistence fishing. P ensez you that in the future, regulation of fishing of ornamental fish can be seen as a priority ?
K :Yes, probably in future, but not now. Priority now is to stop foreigners exploiting locals because we have been exploited enough since hundreds of years.
G 18 : Given the difficulties of establishing regulations – and controlling their application – another idea would be to consider a kind of internal regulation for fishermen, conventions of good practice advocating, for example, the non-exploitation of endangered species. and controlled levies for others. This way would make sinners the main actors of preservation since they would feel responsible for withdrawals and it would be possible to organize themselves jointly, for example to resist too much demand from certain countries; but it is difficult: what must be done to make it feasible?
.K : First, you must know that we (locals) are not rich people. We are mostly working from hand to mouth – refer to my explanation above. The profit we get in this business is peanuts compared to what the foreigners get. This is also why I wrote that we cannot survive only on this business. Under such circumstances, how can we resist demand from importers when it is our bread and butter? The little profit we get helps us to take care of our families. If locals start getting better profits, there are possibilities to control the business. Example – if, at this moment, the equation is foreigners getting 90% and locals getting 10% profit, and if the equation changes to 30% for foreigners and 70% for locals – this means locals will earn 7 times more money which can make us much happier. And then, we can happily look into controls, regulations, etc. This will also mean that it will reduce the exploitation we are facing now. As explained in the beginning, we have the hardest task in this business, but with a very low profit.
It is very important, first, to understand how we live here. We do not have any medical insurance, we do not have any social benefits, neither do we have any retirement packages/benefits nor any unemployment benefits. Here, when we fall sick, we pay cash on the spot, when we do not have work, nobody takes care of us. When we get old, we have to fend for ourselves! When we face an accident, we have to pay cash to get treated, and so on. We do not get any loans to build/buy houses and so we need hard cash money to buy one if we want. For locals, it is very different than all those foreigners working here legally or illegally. These foreigners are fully protected by their government, they are fully insured, and so on and on. We do not have any sort of such benefits, if you can try to understand this. And so life here is not like one may think – sitting faraway from Africa, it is a very hard life here. We have extended families which are supported by few abled men. It is very difficult to get proper medical care and good education. Transportation is also very tricky and at times, expensive. I am in need of a total hip replacement since last 4 years, but money logistics are not favorable as I need at least 15,000.00 USD to get this done in India. We did start saving for this problem, but Covid 19 disturbed our plans. And so I have to wait for I do not know how long.
All of us have been doing this business for years now, but who has become rich? Nobody! Few have made little money only to live happily, nothing else. I remember that our distributor of fish during 1980’s made so much money from us and became filthy rich, he had built a very nice and big house, had a pretty car, etc. He was only a fish keeper employed by one of our importers (Africa Aquarium) before working with us. Compared to how much money he made, we made peanuts only. This is why we had to think of starting other businesses to support us (Lodge and tourism).
But importers – big and small – have made a lot of money. Many importers would like to get fish without making payment! Can you imagine this? Is there anything in this world where you can get it without any payment? They want us to send them fish, then they will send a list of DOA, they sell the fish and later pay us (if we are lucky) some money. This is pure exploitation of poor by rich and happening all over Africa for hundreds of years. We have lost a lot of money in this way – thousands of dollars! They just disappear after few imports.
And so, to resist an order from a good importer is next to impossible. Getting orders from reliable importers is difficult and so when an order comes, we have to grip it tight! It is money for us, money we are looking for to help our family.
G 20 : For fishermen, fishing activities represent a significant risk and accidents are not rare and sometimes fatal. When informed, amateurs are very sensitive to these risks and often wonder about the means to avoid them …
K : Most of the divers (many were trained initially by us when they worked with us) are very good in their work. These divers are born on the lake shores and they are natural fishermen and boatmen. They have learnt swimming when they were toddlers!!! Please remember, they are NOT leisure divers or diving for recreation purposes to take photos or videos or selfies!!. They are working under water, chasing fish like nobody’s business, running around all the time. I doubt if any of those “master divers” can do what these divers do. One must see this to realize how hard it is to work underwater. One of these days, I will make a video and show people what it is working underwater. It is very hard, difficult, and needs a lot of training and endurance. It is not diving alone as so many people (foreigners) may have been thinking, it is diving to work, diving to earn bread and butter. You must see how we work using only snorkel. Imagine, taking a breath, going underwater up to 6-7 meters, chasing and catching fish with that little breath of air!! Can you imagine this? Remember how difficult it is catching fish in our aquaria using that small hand net? Now these divers have to catch fish underwater in the lake with limited breathing time (less than a minute). We used to do this too in those early days and so we know how hard it is.
Same is diving using bottles (scuba). Most basic diving regulations are well known to us, though we cannot follow all of them. Example, it is recommended that after a deep dive, one must rest for hours to allow nitrogen dissolve, but we cannot afford this. We dive to work and so we have to complete our target by making several dives a day. Divers go down to 40-50 meters and work there, chasing and collecting fish! We use too much air in little time because of this hard work. So we surface, take another bottle, and continue work. This is for our survival and so we must do it. When we go out for fish collection, far away from the base, we have limited food, money, time and other resources, and so we have to work fast. The equipment we use have not been serviced or checked because we do not have these facilities. Most equipment is old and modified to make them work. For us locals, no diving, snorkeling, etc equipment is available here. No spare parts or replacement parts are available here. We have to ask our importers to help us buy these and we pay them by fish. Servicing regulators, bottle valves, compressor, gauges etc is not available here and so we just move on, for survival. Even simple O rings are not available.
When you say ‘accidents are not rare’ – I do not agree. Despite of the above very tedious diving work we do, how many dive accidents occur? Almost negligible. Yes, we have rare incidences of getting bitten by crocodiles/hippos, etc. But accidents like Bends etc? Maybe 2 or 3 in the last 5 years. Few accidents have happened because of faulty safety valves or old bottles, a result of what I have written above.
What we all need here is a small recompression chamber to help anybody in a dive accident. This can be helpful in saving lives as the present chamber is very far away in Zanzibar. Also, rescue centers are required to tackle any emergency. If we can get funds, this can be arranged, but who is going to fund us? Locals never get funded!! People want to make money from locals, but these same people will never assist locals.
G 21 :In order to reduce the taking of wild animals, there is another solution which consists in building breeding stations on the edges of the lakes, in pond breeding, from wild subjects, and if possible with lake water. . This device has been used for a long time by FOB (fish Of Burundi) and by Toby Veal; these two operations made it possible to reduce the harvest of the Indians but they had to be stopped for personal reasons; To my knowledge, there is only the experimental Horsfall project and maybe another installation there; What do you think of this approach?
K :This is not or can never be worked out in practice and for business.
Yes, our friends at FOB, did have breeding facilities and at the same time they also exported wild stock. Yes, one of us can think of starting to breed by establishing a station somewhere on the lake. But who is going to fund us? Funding is never done to locals, for your information. We have been thinking about this project for the past 30 years now, but the problem is where to get funds? For foreigners, funding is easy and quick, but for us – impossible. I give you a small example. 2 years back, I had an idea of making a little underwater adventure using an underwater drone. To check fish beyond 70 meters depth, as there were unconfirmed reports that beyond 70 meters there is no fish life. I did not keep this a secret and mentioned this openly during the meeting we had in Poland (my big mistake and
stupidity). The drone seller in the US told us that National Geographic guys are giving small grants/support for such projects. And so, I wrote to NG for help and because we are living here, we informed them that we can work on this every 6 months and come up with good photos and information to share. But they refused helping us. The amount we had requested was 4500.00 USD only – purchase price, shipping, and taxes. We paid ourselves because we were determined to work on this – with or without NG. There is a lot of segregations, racialism, etc on such assistance for us locals. And we did go up to 92 meters and found many fish there. And we also got some good videos and pics.
If funding is available, we are ready to take up this breeding project on a very large scale. Once, we had even visited our good friend, Mireille of FOB, to study and learn the breeding tactics. But then , funding was and is still an issue. Though we do not think this can really make any difference, we can give it a serious try.
But we all believe that such a project or projects must only be undertaken by locals for our benefit.
G 25 : Let us leave the fishermen-exporters to talk about the importers; they can have an important role in the protection of species, because it is they who, by “making” the offer made to amateurs, solicit them; To do this, they even work directly with fishermen, some of whom do not always have good practices. Do you have a message for them? Do you think, for example, that large specialty retailers should avoid importing endangered species (those on the red lists)?
K : First, I do not believe in this ‘red list’. Who made this and why were locals not involved? Like I said somewhere above, we are still being ruled by people outside Africa.
The message to importers is very clear on all my explanation above – let them remain as importers ONLY and not to mess around here in Africa, looking for money/treasure, and working covertly to fend their greediness.
G 27 : Finally, at the end of the chain, there are aquarists … For ornamental fish, especially cichlids, interest in Lake Tanganyika species in Europe tends to falter a little, after a long period of fishing. discovery and learning. Nevertheless, the attraction to savages is persistent. it is still often difficult to resist the purchase of a wild fish, a species that no one has: possession is always an element of aquarist passion. A message to help raise awareness? ?
K : Let these rare fish be controlled by locals and make some money. Foreigners/importers make a lot of money on these ‘rare’ and OB fish. A little more money for locals can go a long way.
G 28 :As we just mentioned, “owning” is an integral part of passion, of love for fish. Several of my interlocutors from the lake think that it would be better to “come and see the fish” rather than own them; this idea seems somewhat unrealistic to me because not everyone has the means to travel. One of the ideas for “admiring without owning” would be to use video extensively in a natural environment; it joins your underwater drone project …
K : Yes, as explained above in No. 21. We did get the project running without any funding or assistance from anyone. But the problem is how do we get this information to people (retailers, amateurs)? For us, locals, we do not have any platform for sharing such information.
But my fear is that, once people see the good and rare fish on videos, it might encourage them to possess these fish, thereby creating more problems. It is a hobby for many people and not possible to pull people out of that.
I would like to mention that Marta of Tropheus Tanganyika (Poland) is the only person who gave us a platform to talk about fish – from the locals’ perspective. And I am very grateful to her. She also encouraged me to write articles for her magazine – Tanganyika Magazyn. Thank you, Marta. In 40 years, somebody gave us (locals) a chance to speak and write. We had tried many times to request several fish magazines for accepting articles from us, but nobody wanted this. And you know why? Most people do not want any locals to speak out anything because this may be counter-productive to all those people talking about fish worldwide. Locals may prove some of them wrong, etc. And another reason is to keep all locals/exporters under the carpet so that new importers may not be able to contact us. There was a time we were told not to put our address on the boxes!!! To avoid people contacting us. They want to hide us so that we do not know about the prices they sell our fish etc. The English call this – spilling the beans.
G 29 zoos and large aquariums have well understood this double problem: responding to the need to see “in real life”, reduce the removal of wild animals, but also reproduce to avoid the extinction of certain species; What do you think ? In Normandy, a new oceanographic center will open in 2023 and we will provide a population of Tropheus to fill a large Tanganyika basin (as part of the conservation project in collaboration with AFC): would you try to help us?
K : Of course, it would be a privilege to help, only if they request us for help.
G 30 Some amateurs, generally pro or semi pro and very specialized, maintain – and renew – groups of savages and organize quality reproduction: This solution – which slows down the taking of savages while satisfying the demand of amateurs – does it seem to you good ?
K : Frankly, I do not understand this question well, sorry. If you mean breeding by those pro or semi pro, it is already being down in many parts of Europe, UK, US, Asia, etc.
G 31 :Bringing together amateurs, there are many associations, often national and relatively old. These associations played a major role in the discovery of cichlids and, subsequently, in the dissemination of good practices (maintenance, reproduction). In recent years, the difficult economic situation, the Internet and the disaffection for certain families of fish have led to a slightly lower motivation of enthusiasts which has made the role of these organizations more difficult. In your opinion, what points should these associations now insist on to guide their members?
K : Associations played a major role in the discovery of cichlids? When was this done to whom? We have NEVER received any help of any sort.
We have tried to contact many associations all over the world to become a member since many years, but never got one positive feedback from ANY association. Many would not like hearing from us locals because of the reasons only known to them. But I think it is the fear of ‘spilling the beans’.
G32 : Despite obvious progress linked to travel and the Internet, one can think that many amateurs are still quite far from real life on the shores of the lake, from this Africa which gives them so much; There is no doubt that the urgent need to protect species is gaining ground, but the idea of concrete participation in the process is not yet widely felt. To strengthen the link, one idea would be to establish a financial relationship, even a symbolic one, between the amateur and the lake, for example by participating in the implementation of a device to protect certain species. What do you think ?
K : If we get funding, we can start on a big scale, breeding and conservation centre here, we have the expertise and know-how to do this, with little help from other professionals.
G 33 Kirit, our exchange is over; on this difficult subject of species protection, it was essential to hear a voice from the lake, that of a pioneer in ornamental fish fishing, that of a child of the lake, that of a recognized actor. This article is also a tribute to your contribution to the discovery of numerous cichlids, a way to fill the gaps in the books. I have no doubt that our readers will be interested in your thoughts and thank you on their behalf.
K : Thank you, Gerard. Maybe, this is the first time people will know what actually is happening here – from a local. All the facts and information from my 41 years of experience. I know I have written so much on foreigners and many would not like this, but these are the true stories. This is the pain we are suffering all the time. It was and has not been my intention to hurt anybody. I am only speaking from the locals’ side, trying to express our frustrations, trying to show people what these greedy foreigners who come here and work covertly, exploiting Africa !!! People must know what is on the other side of the coin.
I have much more information on many issues like what some authors do and have done on the lake, what foreign exporters have covertly done here, etc, etc. I will share these stories some other time.
Few people like Marta, and my brother Klaus – are very good people with big heart and understanding. Marta and Klaus have always stood with us and readily understands us as locals. Our sincere thanks to you all.
I have told you my story, and I hope you understand it and do publish it.
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