The government plans to spend Sh1 billion to establish a marine hatchery in Kwale, signalling a big boost for Kenya’s fishing industry.
The Kenya Marine Fisheries and Research Institute (KMFRI), says the fish hatchery will be set up at Shimoni and is part of the blue economy initiative to address challenges of food security at the coast and across the country.
KMFRI director James Njiru said the Government had so far injected Sh200million into the fingerling production facility whose construction has started.
“The project has already started and the mariculture station is at the first floor. We discovered there are no hatcheries in the region that produces fingerlings for aquaculture so the project seeks to fill this gap,” he said.
Prof Njiru said the Government would release funds for the project in phases.
The mariculture station, he said, will discourage farmers from using uncertified fingerlings that often lead to poor yields. “The fingerlings farmers use are not certified. This becomes a challenge, especially for those who farm in ponds,” he said.
Prof Njiru spoke on the sidelines of a meeting between KMFRI and a Belgian team that Spartners with the institute in marine and fisheries research.
KMFRI says once operational, the project will ensure steady supply of seeds and feeds for sustainable aquaculture, leading to expansion of marine fish farming.
“The biggest challenge has been in supply of seeds and feeds but with the project up and running, it will address the problem alongside efficient sorting out of fingerlings to weed out predators,” he said.
KMFRI acquired a 25-acre piece of land that will be used to establish efficient procurement system for seeds and feeds to ensure fish farming is sustainable.
The research institute has cited lack of quality seeds and feeds as the main setback which has denied fishermen opportunity to create wealth through the enterprise.
“If tapped well, fish farming can have better economic and social outcomes for farmers. This is the reason we want to put up this project to fight poverty and food insecurity,” he said
Farmers also welcomed the project saying lack of hatcheries causes them big losses.
Florence Mwangovya said a hatchery would improve their productivity and will not limit them to keeping a particular species of fish.
“We have the challenge of getting fingerlings and that is why we only keep Milkfish which grow to be very big. However, if there is a hatchery that can produce better species that take less time to mature, then that will be very good,” she said.
She said Milkfish takes at least six months to be ready for harvesting and that farmers sometimes lose their stock when predators accidentally mix with fish.
“It is very difficult to tell which fish are the predators when they are small. We do sampling every now and then to separate predators from the Milkfish,” said Ms Mwangovya.
The partnership between Kenya and Belgium saw the country receive an oceanographic vessel "RV Mtafiti" which was handed over to KMFRI to conduct deep-sea research.
Governor Carl Decaluwe of West Flanders Province represented the Belgian government at the meeting.