It is estimated that 25–40% of the protein in the diet of the people living around the lake comes from lake fish,and that population amounts to around one million.Currently there are around 100,000 people directly involved in the fisheries operating from almost 800 sites. The lake is also vital to the estimated 10 million people living in the basin.
Lake Tanganyika fish can be found exported throughout East Africa. Commercial fishing began in the mid-1950s and has had an extremely heavy impact on the pelagic fish species, in 1995 the total catch was around 180,000 tonnes. Former industrial fisheries, which boomed in the 1980s, have subsequently collapsed.
The lake holds at least 250 species of cichild fish and 150 non-cichlid species, most of which live along the shoreline down to a depth of approximately 180 metres (590 ft). Lake Tanganyika is thus an important biological resource for the study of speciation in evolution. The largest biomass of fish, however, is in the pelagic zone (open waters) and is dominated by six species: two species of tangananyika sardine and four species of predatory lates (related to, but not the same as, the Nile perch that has devastated Lake Victoria cichilds.)
crabs, shrimps,jellyfishes, leeches, copepods. Almost all (98%) of the Tanganyikan cichlid species are endemic (exclusively native) to the lake and many, such as fish from the brightly coloured Tropheus genus Prized within the aquarium trade. This kind of elevated endemism also occurs among the numerous invertebrates in the lake, most especially the molluscs.