Almost a year after President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the repossession of all grabbed fish landing sites along the Coast, no one seems to have adhered to the directive.
According to Haki Yetu, a local NGO working on land issues at the Coast, the Presidential order has not borne fruits and fishermen are still operating from the few landing sites that had been reclaimed.
“When President Kenyatta visited Mombasa for the launch of the Kenya Coast Guard Service in November 2018, he directed the State Department of Fisheries and the National Land Commission (NLC) to repossess all illegally acquired fish landing sites in the entire Coast region, issuing an ultimatum that the fisher folk should have unhindered access to their sites by March 2019. But that has not happened to date affecting fishing activities,” said Father Gabriel Dolan, executive director of the organisation during an interview with Shipping and Logistics.
A documented titled Nowhere to Land by the organisation in 2015 revealed that most landing sites at the Coast are not only neglected but are in the hands of the politically-connected individuals, churches, hotels and other government-owned agencies. “What came out in our report is that for example, out of the 49 landing sites within Mombasa County, only 14 have been gazetted, and this means that those which have failed to be gazetted are at a risk of being grabbed,” said Fr. Dolan, adding that this is the reason fishermen who are members of the Beach Management Unit (BMU) are usually poorly compensated under the pretext that they don’t own them.
“But worse still, even the gazetted sites are not exempt from plunder. For example, Mkomaniare is a gazetted site but is no longer in the hands of the Beach Management Units, the fisher folk associations mandated with their governance,” he added.
Since the directive by the President, he said only five landing sites — Mkupe, Ngari, Tudor, Mtongwe and Likoni — have been surveyed and beaconed. The report also accuses the Mombasa County administration of failing to equip the fishermen with modern equipment to explore the deep seas, currently controlled by foreign vessels.
In 2016, the county assembly passed a motion to ensure BMUs are adequately equipped with storage facilities, modern boats and fishing gears.
Late last year, the Mombasa county government procured and supplied 28 high-density fibre glass boats, two each for the 14 BMUs.
Donors such as the Kenya Commercial Bank came in to support the county with one 10-tonne boat christened MV 001.
“As an organisation, we feel that both the county and the national government can do much more to uplift the living standards of local fishermen instead of allowing foreign vessels to raid our oceans,” said Furaha Charo, the organisation’s land programme officer.