The fisheries sector in Coastal Kenya can fetch more than Sh300 billion annually if all the designated fishing zones are fully exploited.
This is according to the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) which says that most of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) waters in the Indian Ocean in Kenya are under-exploited.
Speaking in Lamu during the unveiling of research findings on the state of fishery grounds specifically along the Northern Kenya banks, KMFRI assistant director oceanography and hydrography Joseph Kamau noted they have a high abundance of fish and are more diverse than any other coastal ecosystems.
The Northern Kenya bank is situated in the far north of Lamu, from Kiwayu, Ungwana Bay, River Tana, Ngomeni to Malindi in Coastal Kenya.
The research also shows that NKBs ocean upwelling plays a crucial role in the management of commercially important migratory species and enhances marine productivity.
Dominant larval fish species found during the South Eastern Monsoon season comprise anchovies, barracuda, snappers, jacks, high-value Albacore, and yellowish tuna.
Mr Kamau said the lack of advanced fishing equipment has hindered exploration of the rich fishery grounds.
Most fishermen in places like Lamu and the Coast end up fishing only within 5 nautical miles as they cannot reach the 200 nautical miles fishing limit in the deep seas due to the use of traditional and outdated fishing gear. This has resulted in them exploiting only about 20 percent worth of fisheries, leaving the rest unharnessed.
Mr Kamau said the organisation has been undertaking training for Lamu and other fishermen in the Coast counties on how they can fully exploit the sector.
“The sleepless nights and the intensive data search have paid off with results revealing that it is high time attention shifted to the potential sitting in the NKBs,” said Mr Kamau.
Economy initiatives taking centre stage in the Coast region, KMFRI hopes to leverage its marine research prowess to sustainably develop fisheries resources in the North Kenya Bank and enable the formulation of informed management interventions.
Lamu County Fisheries Officer, Simon Komu, who was in attendance during the release of the research findings called on participants, including the Lamu fishers to leverage the findings for posterity.
Mr Komu said analysis of the research data is critical in establishing the health status of the ecosystem and fisheries productivity in the North Kenya Banks.