Kenya’s fishing sector is set for a major boom after the government drafted a set of regulations to empower industry players. The implementation of the new rules is expected to double fish catch to 300,000 metric tonnes.
According to the Draft Marine Fisheries (Access and Development) Regulations 2022 and Lake Turkana Fisheries Management Plan, Kenya will earn at least Sh100 billion and create 240,000 jobs annually once the new regulations are fully implemented.
The reforms are expected to bring investment certainty in marine fisheries because fishing rights will be issued “for a sufficiently long time, allowing prudent and profitable planning of investments”.
“These rights are planned for five years and 20 years for industrial exclusive economic zones fishers. This means that investors will no longer have to queue for annual fishing licences assured quotas. Fishers will finally be bankable and hence can access credit to invest in the business,” said the head of Kenya’s Oceans and Blue Economy Office Samson Mwathethe.
He added that the introduction of fishing rights and quotas accompanied by separation of fishing areas between artisanal, semi-industrial and industrial fishers will ensure sustainable conservation of marine fisheries.
During a validation meeting for the proposed regulations in Mombasa, it was agreed that the conflicts between various types of marine fishers would be fully addressed.
Big fishing vessels will no longer be allowed to fish in artisanal fishing grounds. The vessels have been blamed for fishing in the artisanal fishing grounds affecting Kenya’s marine ecosystem.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said billions of people globally, especially the world’s poorest, rely on healthy oceans as a source of jobs and food nutrition.
“About 60 million people globally are employed in fishing and the oceans contributing about $1.5 trillion annually to the overall global economy according to World Bank, 2022. In Kenya, marine fisheries account for less than 10 percent of the national fish land and sustain jobs of more than 1 million individuals whose income depends directly or indirectly on fishing,” he said.
The number of fishers employed directly in Kenya’s marine sector is 13,426.
He said Kenya has an abundance of untapped potential in maritime resources along its marine coastline which extends over 650 km translating to a total area of 9700 square km of territorial waters and an EEZ constituting a further 142, 400 square km.
“As such the need for Kenya as a coastal state to boost her marine fisheries to reap the attendant benefits cannot be overstated. This necessitates a transformation from the current license-based management and conservation to a rights-based system,” he said in his speech.
The regulations provide for an artisanal revolving fund to be financed through a two percent levy on the value of artisanal fisheries landings. The fund will be managed through beach management units.
“We now have a solid regulatory framework for sustainable and beneficial development and commercialisation of our marine fisheries. Let’s expedite the remaining steps to commence implementation so that the livelihoods of our fishers and supply of raw materials to the ultra-modern tuna fish factory the government is developing at Liwatoni,” said Mr Mwathethe.
The stakeholders including Principal Secretary for Shipping and Maritime Nancy Karigithu and her fisheries counterpart Dr Francis Owino said the regulations will give fishers power to decide how marine fishers will be accessed.
In the new reforms, artisan fishers through their Beach Management Units will have a say on who should be registered as a subsistence or an artisan fisher.
“Artisanal fishers will collectively manage fishing quotas amongst their members at the BMU level giving co-management which is a key principle in sustainable fisheries management,” said Blue Economy general retired Samson Mwathethe.
Mr Mwathethe said through the regulations, that there will be investment certainty in marine fisheries.
“Because fishing rights will be issued for a sufficiently long time, allowing prudent and profitable planning of investments. These rights are planned for five years and 20 years for industrial Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) fishers. This means that investors will no longer have to queue for annual fishing licenses
The stakeholders met and discussed the regulations with fishers from Lamu, Tana River, Kilifi, Mombasa and Kwale counties. Others that have been consulted include the national assembly and Coast Parliamentary Group.
The fisheries regulation under review includes the inland fisheries regulations, Fisheries regulation that consist of the beach management unit, recreational regulation which involves inland and riverine fisheries, fisheries regulation that entails safety and quality and general fisheries regulations.
The draft regulation document which began in mid-2021 is also expected to provide standards for sustainable use, management and protection of the fisheries resources and sport fishing.
Mr Mwathethe called upon the stakeholders involved to hasten the remaining law-making steps and implement the regulations immediately because the country including communities depend on marine fisheries for livelihood and cannot wait any longer.