Step up blue economy policing to protect fishery resources in Kenya

Fishermen on Lake Victoria.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The impacts of continued illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities have contributed to food insecurity and a loss of revenue for many low-income and least-developed countries.

The IUU fishing also represents a serious human rights issue: aside from the theft of fishery resources, there have been documented cases of forced labour and human trafficking.

For instance, data by Environmental Justice (EJF) reveals that Chinese vessels were linked to 86 unique cases relating to 177 suspected or confirmed offences of IUU fishing or human rights abuses in the South West Indian Ocean region between 2017 and 2023.

Half of these cases involved vessels owned or controlled by state-owned enterprises or enterprises in which the Chinese government has a partial interest. Of the 95 long liners currently believed to be authorised to target tuna in the South West Indian Ocean, 47 percent are linked to cases of IUU fishing and/or human rights abuses. For the 39 non-tuna fishing vessels, the figure is 26 percent. Therefore, many experts agree that drastically reducing the ability of IUU fishing activities to persist is a key component of poverty reduction and effort to achieve food security in the world’s most vulnerable coastal regions.

Data by the Automatic Identification System indicates that potential annual economic values associated with IUU fishing in Kenya and Tanzania stand at $10,963 and $31,321, respectively. Some nations in the South West Indian Ocean suffer potentially higher losses due to IUU fishing, such as Tanzania, representing roughly 45.8 percent of total losses in resource potential (around $65.4 million).

The greater losses to Tanzania are likely due to the higher export value of species from the area, as well as a high level of suspected unreported catch.

In Kenya, there are only seven industrial longliners targeting swordfishes within the exclusive economic zone of Kenya catching about 300 metric tonnes per annum despite the huge potential.

The tuna catch limit allocation for Kenya is low because we are catching less than island states such as Seychelles and Mauritius due to a small tuna fleet mainly dominated by artisanal fishing vessels that rarely submit substantive data on their catches.

The private sector is essential in supporting the development of a blue economy in Kenya, however, the government has a huge role to play in creating enabling policies and strategies.

The office of the attorney general also is supposed to look at the draft for verifications in line with the law before it is sent to Parliament. Public participation plays a huge role, after getting the public input it is taken back to parliament for another reading. If they are content it is put into a motion so it can be approved.

Fisheries management has traditionally been at national level, with little integration across the region. Sustainable management and utilisation of blue economy resources should incorporate the provisions of several regional, and global fisheries frameworks.

The government hasn’t effected the Oceans and fisheries policy, the National Plan of Action- IUU fishing, as well as the national blue economy strategy, among others, as well as reviewing the national tuna fisheries management and development strategy.

In recent years, there has been increasing activity from artisanal and small-scale fishers. This expansion has caused conflicts with the trawl sector, which are exacerbated by the trawlers’ high levels of bycatch discarding, where some of those species form part of artisanal fisheries’ targeted catches.

In addition to the high bycatch, the declining status of shrimp, prawn amongst other stocks is of great concern, as these species are low in the food chain and directly impact the health of other species, including those of commercial importance such as tuna.

The writer is a communication expert. 

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