Some of the characteristics of the African Great Lakes are the numerous species of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, plankton, and other phyla, most of them endemic. The usual sources of perturbation when speaking about Great Lakes also have their impacts on the African Great Lakes, such as overfishing, dumping of untreated sewage, pebble and sand mining, agricultural run-off and other threats. Should this biodiversity be protected in times of sheer poverty of the riparian populations? Should it be exposed to exploitation for food security? What are the values of these endemic species in economic terms? This article reviews the impacts on biodiversity by human-induced factors like exotic fish introductions and the invasive water hyacinth, but also by indirect factors like climate change. Lake Victoria has a long history of fish introductions and invasive weeds, but on Lake Tanganyika the original species composition of many taxa can still be preserved and protected, at a cost. The Great Lakes surrounding these countries, by means of conventions and regional management bodies, sought to protect the environments and called for international collaboration to improve management of the natural resources, both terrestrial and aquatic. The way forward will be to involve local fishing communities in nature conservation and management, but there are many communities and many fishermen. How to reach them in areas where there is no municipal electricity supply, no portable phone network, nor internet facilities. In the 21st century, around the African Great Lakes the keyword is survival, not only of biodiversity, but also of the inhabitants of their basins.

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