A standoff is brewing between the Fisheries Department and the newly created Kenya Coast Guards over arrests and extortion of fishermen in Kenyan waters.
The State Department for Fisheries, Aquaculture and the Blue Economy wants Parliament to intervene and demarcate the role of the Kenya Coast Guards which is domiciled in the State Department of Shipping and Maritime.
Principal Secretary Francis Owino told Parliament that the Kenya Coast Guards is “purporting to provide what was being done by the Fisheries Department.”
While the Fisheries department functions include fishing licensing, the Coast Guards provide maritime security on national waters.
“It is high time we bring this serious matter to the fore and bring order to Kenya Coast Guards. Otherwise, you can see the economic havoc they unleashed in Naivasha recently,” Dr Owino said.
The Kenya Coast Guards last week came under the spotlight following the shooting to death of a licensed fisherman at Lake Naivasha.
Parliament enacted the Coast Guard Services Act to establish a specialised maritime force responsible for law enforcement on national waters, including on the oceans, lakes, and rivers.
The agency is responsible for maintaining maritime safety, security, pollution control and sanitation. It has powers to arrest and prosecute offenders.
Kenyan fishermen have in the past been harassed by Ugandan security forces who arrest, confiscate their catch, boats and fined.
Dr Owino told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that if the role of Kenya Coast Guards is not clearly demarcated in law, it would lead to havoc in the management of Kenya’s territorial waters.