The assenting to the Fisheries Management and Development Act, 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta marks the country’s long journey to tap into the massive marine resources that have been unde-utilised for years.
More promising was immediate formation of a team led by the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Samson Mwathethe. It was charged with preparation of a roadmap on taping The Blue Economy and submit a report on the way forward to the president in two months.
The thinking is to develop a ‘Marshall Plan’ spearheaded by lead government agencies based on their mandates and specialisations.
The enactment of the law comes in handy because for decades, communities around fishing areas have remained poor because of lack of conducive legal framework to guide the sector.
The fisheries sector has been faced with several challenges including a weak policy framework, limited access to markets, low productivity (yields) and outputs (quantities), weak institutional capacity, weak monitoring and evaluation and lack of use of informational technology, which have limited the sector’s contribution to food security and wealth creation.
This has seen regions with vast natural fish production such as Western and Nyanza, Turkana and Coast recorded as some of the least developed areas.
Under the Act, The Tuna Management Strategy is expected to transform fisheries from artsanal to commercial industry by engaging in Private Public Partnerships (PPP).
The Act provides that existing infrastructure, including the ports in Mombasa and Lamu and the proposed fishing ports of Shimoni, Kilifi, Malindi and Kiunga be upgraded and made efficient. Devolved units along the Coast are expected to invest more resources in this area to maximise benefits from the blue economy, mainly construction of jetties at strategic locations to facilitate commerce and tourism.
The country strategy is to focus on coastal tourism, offshore oil and gas exploration, deep and short-sea shipping, yachting and marinas, passenger ferry services and cruise tourism as the starting point.
The focus will gradually shift to fisheries and aquaculture, inland waterway transport, coastal protection, offshore wind, Blue biotechnology, desalination, aggregates and marine mineral mining, marine aquatic products and ocean renewable energy.
The Act will establish Fisheries Service Advisory Council to negotiate partnership and fishing access agreements, fisheries monitoring and patrol mechanism and improve aquaculture to commercial levels. Further, Kenya Fish Marketing Authority will be established to spearhead implementation and co-ordination of fish marketing.
Mukaraku is the corporate communication officer at Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, Bwire works at the Media Council of Kenya and teaches Environmental journalism.