The value of fish caught in the country rose by 4.5 percent to hit Sh24 billion last year, helped by an increase in volumes.
Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data shows the value of caught fish rose from Sh22.95 billion in 2017 even as concern grew about imports from China.
The value of fish from fresh water sources, which accounted for 81.0 per cent of the total value rose from Sh18.6 billion in 2017 to Sh19.4 billion in the year under review.
“Total fish output increased from 135,100 tonnes in 2017 to 148,300 tonnes in 2018,” says KNBS in a report released last week.
Lake Victoria accounted for 66.1 per cent of the total fish landed with an output of 98,200 tonnes in 2018. Marine fish landed increased by a paltry 4.1 per cent to 24,200.
The continued low share of marine fish landing, says KNBS, is attributed to lack of technology and inadequate facilities necessary for fishing in deep waters.
The country is yet to attain the full potential in fishing at the Indian Ocean. Under the Exclusive Economic Zones, local fishermen are allowed to fish up to 200 nautical miles from the Kenyan shores but they are operating at below five nautical miles for lack of appropriate fishing gear to explore the deep sea waters.
Data from the State department of fisheries indicates Kenya imported more than 20,000 tonnes of fish mainly from China last year worth Sh1.7 billion against Sh1.5 billion in the previous year.
The government argues that the country has an annual deficit of 365,000 tonnes of fish against annual demand of 500,000 tonnes, which can only be filled through imports.
According to the department of fisheries, the catch from Lake Victoria has been dwindling over the years as a result of water hyacinth and restrictions fishing in neighbouring countries such as Uganda and Tanzania.
Kenya is trying to plug the deficit by promoting aquaculture through the Economic Stimulus Programme that started during President Kibaki’s administration. It has, however, had mixed success in that regard.
Aquaculture provides up to 24 per cent of the country’s total fish production, with the balance coming from rivers, lakes and Indian Ocean.