In Summary
  • Kenya could catch up to 300,000 tonnes of fish from the Indian Ocean sustainably every year.
  • In 2014, President Kenyatta said that Kenya loses Sh10 billion from illegal fishing.

The extent to which Kenya is yet to exploit its marine fishing potential is now clear, with the country being among the worst in Africa when it comes to sea fishing, a review of global fisheries data by Nation Newsplex shows.

Of the 38 African countries that have a coastline, only six landed a smaller catch of sea fish, crustaceans and molluscs than Kenya did in 2015.

According to data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (Fao), Kenya landed a total of 8,496 tonnes from those three categories in 2015.

LEADING COUNTRIES

Even when the revised 2015 figure of 9,299 tonnes contained in the 2017 Economic Survey is included, Kenya’s ranking, which places it only ahead of Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Eritrea, DRC, Djibouti and Sudan, does not improve.

The biggest sea fishing country in Africa was Morocco, which landed 1.35 million tonnes, 159 times more than Kenya’s catch.

It was followed by South Africa (564,000), Namibia (507,000), Angola (457,702), Senegal (393,867), Mauritania (388,776), Nigeria (372,457), Ghana (243,181) and Mozambique (193,567).

Together, these nine countries account for three quarters of all the marine fish, crustaceans and molluscs caught by African countries.

In East Africa, Tanzania caught 61,304 tonnes, which was more than six times Kenya’s catch of 8,496 tonnes in 2015, while Somalia, which has faced protracted instability, landed 29,800 tonnes of sea fish.

According to Fao, Kenya could catch up to 300,000 tonnes of fish from the Indian Ocean sustainably every year, about 30 times the current catch.

OVERFISHING

Although freshwater fish currently make up 93 per cent of Kenya’s total catch, recent years have seen declines in the amount of fish landed, partly due to the overfishing of some species.

For example, from 2012 to 2016, Kenya’s freshwater catch fell 18 per cent, from 145,150 tonnes to 119,550 tonnes.

Lake Victoria, the source of 75 per cent of Kenya’s fish, accounted for 98,666 tonnes in 2016, a 10 per cent drop from the year before and a 31 per cent increase from the 143,908 tonnes landed in 2006.

Lake Turkana is the second largest single source of freshwater fish in Kenya.

However, its catch has dropped 58 per cent from 2009, when 9,445 tonnes were captured to 2016, when only 3,693 tonnes of fish were landed.

Although catches at man-made fish farms surged by almost 400 per cent to 24,000 tonnes from 2009 to 2014, they then fell by nearly 38 per cent to 14,952 tonnes in 2016.

Increasing imports of freshwater fish, particularly from China, show that local fisheries may not be adequate for the country’s needs.

Increasingly, Kenyans have seen Chinese fish on local supermarket shelves.

ILLEGAL FISHING

From 2014 to 2015, imports of fish from China grew 60.2 per cent from Sh624.1 million to Sh1.02 billion according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

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