Despite the huge potential, the fishing industry at the Coast is yet to achieve its full potential. Research by the Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) on fish stocks in designated coastal locations shows that 4,050 tonnes can be harvested to fetch Sh7.5 billion per year.
Speaking during the World Fisheries Day in Kilifi last week, Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Livestock Chief Administrative Secretary Lawrence Omuhaka said the current tonnages for fish landed from the ocean waters remains low. “There are obvious reasons for this. They range from the use of outdated fishing methods to adverse weather conditions,” Omuhaka pointed out.
Drop in consumption
Kenya’s fisheries and aquaculture sector contribute approximately 0.54 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Earlier reports indicate that fish consumption has been declining from a modest 6.0 kg/caput in 2000 to 4.5 kg/caput in 2011.
The value of fish exports was about USD 62.9 million in 2012, or about five times greater than the USD 12.3 million in fish imports. In 2013, around 129,300 people derived their livelihood from fishing and fish farming activities (including 48,300 in inland waters, 13,100 in coastal waters fishing and around 67,900 in fish farming).
To change the tide, the government is looking at ways of promoting aquaculture and using cured fish products for food relief programmes to enhance national food security. In the marine sector, one issue is the control of foreign-flag vessels that are fishing tuna in the Exclusive Economic Zone and where illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is known to occur.
Kenya is party to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea since March 1989 and to the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement since July 2004. Kenya signed the Port State Measures Agreement in November 2010. Kenya is also a member of the Committee for Inland Fisheries of Africa (CIFA), a founding member of Aquaculture Network for Africa, FAO Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and FAO South West Indian Ocean Commission for Fisheries.
Why marine fisheries is key?
It is worth noting that marine fish production comes mainly from small-scale fisheries which provide opportunities for employment and wealth creation along the value chain as as well as contribute to food and nutrition security.
Marine fisheries are also important for the preservation of culture and national heritage including related industries such as tourism and recreational purposes. According to Community Action for Nature Conservation (Canco), a civil society group, fisheries supports small and large scale players.
“In Kenya, a large number of people are involved in small scale fisheries value chain and their supply chain services including but not limited to resource harvesting and production, processing, trade, marketing and boat building,” Canco’s project manager in-charge of Marine and Fisheries Resources Programme Richard Bemaronda said.
In a bid to tap into the vast potential in the marine sector, the World Bank in partnership with the Kenya Marine Fisheries Socio-economic Project (KEMFSED) rolled out a project in the five Coastal counties namely Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi, Tana River and Lamu for five years (2020-2025).
The project domiciled at the State Department for Fisheries, Aquaculture, and the Blue Economy aims to improve management of priority fisheries and mariculture as well as increase access to complementary livelihood activities at the Coast.
The project targets poor households including fishermen, dependant house-holds, rural communities with direct or indirect links to fishing activities. “KEMSFED intends to build sustainable marine fisheries sector and help diversify the income of rural Coastal communities,’’ Bemaronda said.
He said another key initiative is the Go-Blue venture launched this year by Governors from the six Coastal counties under the Jumuiya Ya Kaunti za Pwani and the Blue Economy Secretariat. ‘’The project which will run for four years aims to protect Kenya’s ecosystem while creating environmentally friendly jobs and provide economic opportunities for women and youth in a host of industries including small scale fisheries, recycling, and tourism,’’ said Bemaronda.
Under the Go Blue venture, German Cooperation began implementing a project that aims to improve the competitiveness of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises such as suppliers, service providers and actors in blue value chains and to provide young job seekers with skills.
In a bid to use research to tap into the vast potential that abounds in Kenya’s maritime resources, Kemfri has its largest research centre in Mombasa at Mkomani close.
The centre conducts research on oceanography and hydrography including physical, chemical, biological, and geological oceanography of the inshore, near shore and offshore waters. The centre seeks to establish cost-effective methods for sustainable exploitation of the aquatic resources (and the environment) through participatory approaches with stakeholders including local communities.