A conservation lobby group in Busia – Save Fish in Lake Victoria – has teamed up with the Kenya Coast Guard Service in the latest efforts towards fighting illegal fishing in the lake.
The organisation's chairman Joseph Odongo on Wednesday expressed concerns that the use of prohibited nets has risen in the recent past in Budalang’i, Busia, and other neighbouring counties.
He said the move has led to an increase in immature fish, especially Nile perch and Tilapia species, in the market despite clear regulations on the type of fishing gear to be used.
Mr Odongo said that their appeal to fishing communities to observe the self-regulation by adhering to set procedures has fallen on deaf ears as locals continue to use illegal nets with some even using toxic substances that kill fish.
“It is unfortunate that some fisheries officers have been working with unscrupulous fishermen to advance illegal fishing. We are working closely with the Kenya Coast Guard to ensure the vice is eliminated,” said Mr Odongo.
The activist disclosed that from next week, there will be frequent patrols in the lake to arrest those who use banned monofilament nets.
Last month, the government deployed the Coast Guard in the area to help protect sections of the lake from insecurity facing local fishermen and also stop illegal fishing.
Service Director-General Brig Vincent Loonena said they are ready to tackle illegal commercial activities in Kenya’s waters.
“The most important thing is to ensure our fishermen observe fishing and marine regulations both in Kenyan and foreign waters. We will cooperate with other government agencies and our colleagues from Uganda to ensure smooth running of activities in Lake Victoria,” he said.
He warned that his team will not spare those who breach fishing regulations including dumping of harmful wastes and pollutants in Kenya’s waters.
“The mandate of Kenya Coast Guard Service is also to ensure pollution prevention. Those found spilling oil or any other form of pollution will be dealt with accordingly,” he said.
While maritime resources contribute only 2.5 percent of the country’s GDP, Kenya loses up to $100 million annually from illegal fishing.