ECOP-marine - Investigative report into the murky waters of East-African sea-fisheries (CL 2005)


Update: February 12, 2008

Update: June 20, 2007

Update: April 10, 2007

Update: December 14, 2005

Update: August 14, 2005

Update: August 11, 2005

Update: March 12, 2005

Update: SAP-NET March, 2005

Update: January 28,  2005

Update: February 04, 2005

Update: February 18, 2005

Report: February 25, 2004 (PDF)

Article: January 2, 2003

Alpha continues to sell Baby-Squids in sizes down to 3 cm through Nakumatt Supermarkets and other outlets in Kenya.

Kenya: Man-made Marine Disaster to worsen?

The battle for fish, shrimps, octopus, squid and lobster escalates in the Western Indian Ocean. Consumers must wake up.

Malindi/Kenya - 26. 01. 2005 wtn - While the most recent Tsunami has spared the coastal areas of Kenya and the tidal waves nowhere reached above the high-water mark, the threat to the coastal ecosystems continues to come from within.

Though inshore trawling was banned along the Kenyan coast - after many years of struggle by environmentally concerned organizations and citizens and already under the former government of then President Daniel Arap Moi - the new Kenya Government seems to disregard all decrees and agreements as well as its own political commitment towards poverty eradication as well as the respective Millennium Goals it signed at the United Nations.


Fact is that with so called "research permits" - following the Japanese way of circumventing international laws against whaling - the Kenya Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development (MLFD) through the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KEMFRI) had repeatedly issued permits to Mombasa based fish industries like Alpha Ltd., Basta & Sons Ltd., East African Seafoods Ltd., under which the banned trawling - mainly targeting the high-valued shrimps for export - simply continued unabated.

Even today and after the scientists from KEMFRI withdrew from being misused in the scam, the Ministry continues unabated to issue such “research licences”, even though it does not have own research capacity and only KEMFRI is tasked by law to conduct scientific marine research in the country (still- and video-footage of this pseudo-legal trawling e.g. by M.S. Venture, operated by the Italian company Basta & Sons Ltd. from Mombasa - even right up to the coral reefs of Malindi and thereby violating the 5 and 3 miles boundaries - from just a few weeks back is available). The by-catch of such “scientific looting”, which makes up to 70% of the haul in this shrimp-trawling, is usually discharged by the trawlers, since they need their cold-storage for the valued prey, leaving the surface of the sea covered with dead juvenile fish and other marine life-forms.

While also neither Basta & Sons nor EAS ever showed any environmental concern, it is Mr. Minaz Kurji of Alpha Fine Foods Ltd., who many insiders of the food industry point out as the man behind most of the destructive industrial and over-fishing of the coastal waters in the western Indian Ocean from Somalia down to Mozambique during the last two decades. Today Nawaz Kurji fronts for the whole Alpha Group and Arif Kurji for its marine Division. Despite being Ismaili in faith and close to their leader the Agha Khan, the Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the Kurji family seem never to have heard of the teaching given by the Holy Qoran, like Sure 13, Aya 8, which says: "Do no mischief on the Earth!"

In the centre of the marine web in the Western-Indian-Ocean also sits Capt. M. Esposito, originally of Southern Engineering Company (SECO), as link between the Italian, European and Asian businesses involved in the whole marine exploitation and transport. Though today operating mainly from Tanzania he often represents the Kenya Fish Processors and Exporters Association (AFIPEK), based in Nairobi and Mombasa. Like other producer groups AFIPEK has put no environmental conditions on its members and is concerned only if the European Union would slap another ban on the fish exports from Kenya due to concerns caused by unhealthy processing or because the EU likes to find Salmonella when its own fishing fleet provides surplus and the good fish from East-Africa infringes on the marketing of their own catch. Since the Mauritanian disaster, where the EU managed all the fisheries and scooped those seas empty, nobody believes that this body would be of real help to developing countries or interested to empower local fisheries. Even the most recent plan to send a part of the European fishing fleet in a fully subsidised way to Tsunami-hit South-East Asia to "revive local fisheries" seems more to be guided by the fear of various development banks from European countries, who also invested massively in the fish-processing industry over there, to loose their money. If during the exercise some cheap fish finds its way then to the European consumer - even better. It might even please some of the European taxpayers, who otherwise are only fooled with such aid-gimmicks.

The catch of shrimps from the “research-trawling” in Kenya, however, is sucked up by the markets everywhere without any hesitation or imposing overly eager sanitation checks. Since the official trawling ban in Kenya and the ongoing circumvention by "research trawling" no scientific data of these ventures were ever presented, and though the failure to deliver these figures clearly violates the agreements, such licenses are today simply renewed "to gain more data".

Typical for Kenya, there is a caucus of the so called stakeholders for the fisheries sector too, termed the Kenya Marine Forum (KMF), which sees itself as a scientific committee though real scientists rarely participate. This group, however, has no power and - while being wined and dined in plush coastal resorts - the forum members remain rather mum on the crucial questions of marine ecosystem destruction along the Kenya coast. No wonder, since critical scientists, NGOs and groups of artisanal fishermen are usually not invited and the KMF, besides the more tame representatives of civil society, is more or less just the club of the exploiters and processors. Can it get worse? – Yes, it does get worse!


Fact is further that a new threat is posed to the Malindi Watamu Biosphere Reserve: Commercial Ring-Net Fishing, which had not been practised by Kenyan operators before.

Ring-nets are surrounding nets and, as operated by industrial fisheries, are seines which - in structure - combine the features of the round haul seine (having the bunt at the centre and being flanked by two wings) and the purse seine. They are usually operated by one or two trawlers. Apart from a few exceptions, like in crab fishing, they are surface nets in which the float-line is supported by numerous floats and some use an auxiliary skiff.

These are nets which catch the fish by surrounding them both from the sides and from underneath, thus preventing any marine life-form larger than the tiny mesh from escaping into deeper waters. Such nets retain all the marine life caught and the percentage of by-catch (i.e. also species not licensed) hauled on board and killed is exorbitant. But who cares since there are companies for chicken-food waiting to buy such loot for good money.

Due to its destructive impact on coastal fisheries e.g. the Government of the Philippines already banned in 1985 all commercial ring-net fishing by industrial vessels of more than three gross tons and within seven kilometres from the shoreline. Also the ring-nets or lamparas used in Malindi are designed and constructed to encircle a whole shoal of fish, which often is tracked by divers who illegally use diving tanks to spot the fish and guide the vessel. Each catch usually exterminates the whole shoal.

While the Malindi Marine National Park has been designated as a Biosphere Reserve under the Man & Biosphere programme of the United Nations Education and Science Organization (UNESCO), the MLFD, headed by Minister Joseph Konzollo Munyao, his hyperactive Director Fisheries (Coast) Mrs. Nancy Gitonga, who usually is pulling the strings, and her Fisheries Officer for the Coast Province, Assistant Director Mr. Godfrey V. Monor, who normally signs the licences, act as ring-net promoters. Kenya Fisheries has at the moment signed away more than 200 commercial fishing licences to trawlers, long-liners etc. and one wonders if there is any fish left in the Kenyan sea to justify such additional off-take by the ring-netters.

The officials are pushed by a company called Fayaz Bakery Ltd. from Mombasa and Kilifi, which engages in this detrimental fishing practice on an industrial level as well as by a former Kenya Navy officer, who operates from offices in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and deals in sea products. Retired Major Seif Sheyumbe, who owns himself a commercial ring-net fishing vessel in Kenya, was even allowed to use undersize nets (¼ inch mesh size), while the local fishermen are being compelled by law to observe the 2 inches mesh size limit.

Such selective application of law in favour of industrial ring-net-operators is persecuting poor local fishermen and calls for thorough investigation by the legal apparatus in Kenya. The facts that employees of the International Union for  the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), which has its African Base in Kenya, spend many days with sun, sand and sea along the coast and are fully aware of the problems, or that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), hosting the Regional Seas Secretariat, has its headquarters in Nairobi or even the fact that the most recent Peace Nobel Prize went to Kenyan environmentalist Prof. Wangari Mathai, who is the Assistant Minister of Environment and has been fully briefed about the malpractices at the Kenya coast, seem not (yet?) to help much at the battlegrounds along the Indian Ocean beaches of Kenya.


Malindi fishermen had sacrificed their fishing grounds to allow the formation of Malindi Marine Park and Reserve without any share of the revenue generated from these marine conservation areas, which are visited by hundred-thousands of people from all over the world every year. The same fishermen have had their fishing grounds invaded by shrimp trawlers that are impacting negatively on their livelihood. Now the fisheries officials of Kenya and their friends in the commercial fishing industries are imposing Ring-Net Fishery and further impoverish the already poor artisanal fishermen, while the industrial fishing operators repeatedly even violate the conservation laws by operating far into all the protected zones.

The worst point is that with the continuation of trawling and ring-netting close to the reefs not only the marine ecosystem is seriously damaged, but that the present Kenya Government of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) violates its own poverty eradication policy, with which it won the 2002 election: In a country like Kenya, which has a substantial number of local communities, who traditionally live off the sea and get their meagre income from artisanal fisheries, the engagement of governmental officials in shady permissions and deals with fishing industries from the region or abroad has a sad history but remains simply stealing the daily bred from the poorest of the poor.


But the web of intriguing connections roots even more far away: Though the minister himself declared in the local press that the government would have no knowledge of any deal involving a South African company and stated that a proposal to take over all fisheries in Lake Victoria as well as all the marine fisheries would not have reached his desk yet, insiders know that the proposed deal is for real: The South African company RED ICON, known in Kenya actually only from cyber-deals, had written already on 22nd October 2004 directly to Minister Munyao. The group’s director and signatory, a Mr. Wathe Walsh, requested with this letter the approval of the project, which obviously must have been discussed in detail earlier. Copies of this request apparently had been sent also to the Finance, Roads, Planning, Trade and last but not least the Environment Minister. In a country like Kenya, where already plans were made to sell off all the National Parks to private developers, nobody wonders about such proposals, but the kind of bidders come more and more from rather strange quarters.


Red Icon is a group of businesses that focuses on providing managed services to business solutions using smart card technology while Red Icon Advanced Systems focuses purely within the defence industry. Red Icon offers government and state entity licensing solutions, particularly in the field of personal identification (national id, driver's licenses, gun licenses, fishing licenses) even using biometric identification. Red Icon therefore is a company preying on big-brother-business and has no own expertise in the fishing or marine environment sector. But the group has a close link with the South African Institute for Maritime Technology, which specializes in technological research and development and tries to provide strategic techno-military support, products and services to the South African Navy. This company consists of two business units: While Maritech supplies Special Forces with technical support focusing on underwater products and systems, their branch "New Ventures" tries to utilize opportunities outside the South African Department of Defence. This is where Kenya fisheries is said to have come into the crosshairs of their rather blurred target-scope.

The other strategic alliance of Red Icon is Irvin & Johnson (I&J), which is one of the larger food brands in South Africa and part of the Anglovaal Industries (AVI) group of companies. With headquarters in Cape Town, I&J claims to have offices, factories, fishing fleets, branches and subsidiaries in South Africa as well as representatives in Australia and the Pacific Rim, the United States, Europe and Africa.

The envisaged deal seems to create a win-win situation for Kenya's Fishing Minister: Let RED ICON do the "licensing" and I&J the exploitation and the processing as well as the marketing of all the fisheries in Kenya - then the Ministry would have no more work or hassle and just could rip off the money. Crucial questions if the traditional fishermen would give up their rights and would agree to become bio-chipped slave-workers for the South-African military-industrial complex or whether the Kenyan minister still has a duty to develop own human resources and facilities in the fisheries sector seem not to come to the official's mind.

It was for Mr. Raila Odinga, the roads and public works minister and shadow president for western Kenya, to make it clear that the waters and fishes of Lake Victoria are not up for grabs and that also the agreements of the East African Community would stand against any such sell-off. For Lake Victoria the clandestine deal seems to be downed, but who comes to the rescue of the artisanal fishermen along Kenya's coast is not yet clear. The Red Icon saga, however, seems to be more than just a red herring and Kenyans are advised to look into countries like Tanzania to realize what havoc South-African companies, who had been given carte blance, can create in various sectors, not only in mining and so called security.  Though security issues must be observed along this coast and the involvement of trawlers and other ships in the recently busted mega-haul of cocain in Malindi, which was the largest ever in Africa, still is under investigation, such incidences do not justify that the Kenyan State just leases out the job to care for even this responsibility.

Pushed by an overly eager security agenda imposed by the United States of North-America, the Kenya Government is eager to show its commitment and to impose all kinds of big-brother tools on the Kenyan people - a biometric ID-chip for all who ply the coastal waters not necessarily being excluded from their fantasies, since Kenya is already the only country in the world which imposed a smart-card on the visitors of their National Parks. This chip-card, which contains personal data, was also imposed with the argument of better revenue-collection, but the system has so far not contributed to the improved sharing of income with the local communities bordering wildlife areas and only made its system providers richer. 

The local fishermen know very well that false promises involving revenue sharing etc. from industrial fishing never materializes in Kenya. This is also why already 19 of the 22 Beach Management Units (which are the management units for gazetted beach landing sites of the fishing co-operative societies) with over 3,000 artisanal fishermen from Malindi, Ngomeni, Mayungu and Watamu refused the local bribing attempts and have signed on 21st of January 2005 a joined statement against the industrial ring-netting and trawling.

Mr. Zackary Mogaka Mabeya, the District Commissioner of Malindi, a beach resort and world famous holiday resort and destination of international deep-sea-anglers, which has to curb social unrest also in order to not affect its tourism business, therefore banned ring-netting. The DC also had to find out that one had clearly tried to mislead him. The appearance and subsequent de-masking of a so called fisheries consultant, a Mr. George Habib, who claimed to have once worked also for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), infamous for too often sidelining with the fishing industries, was brought in by the ring-netter Fayaz and falsely presented as governmental consultant to promote ring-nets. Such didn't go down well with the local fishermen and the officials, the ring-net ban finally was imposed by the DC and peace restored.

Mr. Khyser Fayaz, however, defied the ban. He operates besides Fayaz Bakery Ltd., whose canter-lorries ferried the fish from Malindi to Mombasa, and some small hotels, two ring-net fishing vessels, for whom he had under der company name Soko Dogo Ltd. a special ring-net licence in 2004. He continued after the ban with the then illegal activity right in front of the Malindi coast and under the noses of the DC, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), who is supposed to guard the Marine Reserve, and last but not least the District Fisheries Office, Mr. N.M. Nthekethea, who also does not want to see the illegal beach seine nets, which are floating right in front of his offices and within the marine reserve.

Only due to the pro-active intervention by specialists from the Malindi Marine Association (MAMA who assisted, guided and physically brought the local police officers to the scene, as well as with the help of a private speed boat, the ring-netters were arrested. While Kenya Wildlife Service had refused any help in that operation and the District Fisheries Officer not even had a boat, police and the local community brought the culprits in. The judge from the Malindi court established that they had been breaking the ban on ring-net fishing and that most of the people employed by the ring-netter Fayaz were not even Kenyans. However, because neither the Ministry of Fisheries officials nor the KWS had assisted with the drawing of the charge sheet, only the 8 Tanzanians were convicted for working illegally in Kenya and immediately deported. The one Kenyan arrested got away because the illegal fishing charge was not seconded by Fisheries, who simply didn't appear to the court hearing. Why Kenya Wildlife Service looked the other way in this case is also not clear, but while local people speculate that they too might be in on the take others claim to know that the officers simply lost any motivation to defend their entrusted biosphere, because KWS had recently seen too many changes in its leadership and too little support went to the men up front. Certainly this is an issue the newly appointed Board of Directors of the KWS has to look into, if they are not too busy with preparing the 300 wild animals, including 20 lions, the Kenyan Government recently  promised as donation from their National Parks for a Thailand zoo - an issue, which still causes international outrage. 

To make the size of the marine exploitation more clear: While an artisanal fisherman in Malindi after a night out in his canoe comes back with an average of 5-8 kg of fish for his family or the local market, in October last year a ring-net fishing boat with about 30 fishermen on board capsized due to overloading at Mayungu with a catch of about 15,000 kg of fish. All the fish went to waste and the crew's lives were seriously endangered.

But those who know Kenya also know that where there is big money involved the defence lines never stand for long without renewed attack. Immediately after the court had prosecuted the illegal ring-netters, the "friends of the fishing industry", as one might term them, re-appeared. The honourable Minister Joseph Konzollo Munyao himself, who recently made headlines when he tried unsuccessfully to get the factory of the Kenya Meat Commission into his hands and had engaged a small private army to do so, headed to Malindi to hold a closed door meeting with the senior officials involved, while outside the offices the local fishermen protested, demonstrators carried placards against the ring-netters and numerous voices were heard demanding the Minister to step down. The minister, however, promised at the end of the meeting to issue within two weeks a notice on ring-net fishing. The time for that notice has expired and it is still outstanding.

While Kenya in terms of corruption still ranks very high (which is actually very low with respect to combating corruption) on the index of Transparency International (TI) and it is common knowledge that much money changes hands in any such nature-exploitation deal, it is hoped that now, since also the Kenya Anti-Corruption Unit has finally started to work and with Permanent Secretary John Githongo the President of Kenya, H.E. Kibaki, has a stout defender of ethics and good governance in his office, the hawk-eyes look closer into the fisheries sector. The tide of corruption as well as the senseless, cruel and unsocial exploitation of the seas in Kenya and the region must be stopped!


Responsibility also rests with the consumers. Since years Kenya was used to sell to rich Nairobians and to export illegally fish, shrimps, octopus and lobster from Somalia in addition to the catch from its own coast. Since there is now a new government in place for Somalia and the Somalis regularly arrest the illegal or disputed fishing vessels, the supplies and proceeds from these pirate operations are dwindling, which is why pressure on the local fisheries' resources in Kenya and Tanzania enhances.

Dynamite fishing as last resort to get the remaining fishes has shown its ugly face already again in the Tanzanian waters, despite the hefty fines for the practice. Even at Kigombe and Tanga, where just recently the living fossil from the deep - the fish Coelacanths - was discovered, the dynamite blasts destroy the remaining marine life.
Just like yesterday, this morning (26.01.2005) three huge blasts were noted by marine observers around 11h00 EAT at Kigombe-Karange island. But while in other areas every tyre-burst slams the anti-terrorism-squads into gear, who cares about blasts at the reef or theoretical fines, if the courts don’t convict?  The local Fisheries Officer at Kigombe certainly does not and only a few local hotels have refused so far to buy the blasted fish.

Right now is closed season (15. Nov. - 15. Feb.) for the shrimps off the coast of Malindi but the fine ladies in Nairobi who buy the frozen crustaceans or also the neatly packed "baby-squids" e.g. from Alpha Ltd. simply don't know and they don't care that the vessels Alpha Manyara and Andrea (Basta), are fishing not only off the coast near Malindi for tuna but often enough are observed inside the closed 3 or 5 miles zones, while no fisheries officer or other observer is on board. Or who cares when the formerly Russian ships Horizon I and II, named today Roberto and Helena respectively and operated by Basta & Sons come back from Somalia to Mombasa and claim that they just took the catch over from the ships Andrea and Venture, which actually can present Kenyan fishing licences, thereby also falsifying any data of the catch-log concerning Kenyan waters. Hardly anybody cares, since the catch as well as the by-catch from all these vacuum-cleaning operations goes anyway uncontrolled into the consumer pipeline with its growing demand and the loot ends on the plates of ambassadors in Kenya’s capital, on the laps of oil-barons in the Emirates, in European Supermarkets or as chicken food in our breakfast eggs.

ECOP-marine ( tries since several years to find a responsible Kenyan marine fishing company, which adheres to ECOTERRA's ( strict environmental and social conditions concerning responsible and sustainable fishing, but besides paying mere lip-service so far none of the commercial operators has complied and it seems that the cartel of industrial fishing companies does not want to give in an inch. Reason enough for a sound government to step in, since also Kenya's Seafarers Assistance Programme identifies all the Kenyan and foreign flagged fishing vessels operating in the region as sub-standard with respect to marine safety and working conditions. It seems that the whole sector is intentionally ruined and earmarked to go down the drain – maybe in order to have one more argument to sell it off – as an easy catch for the red-icons from South-Africa?


What usually is also not seen by the holiday-makers in Malindi, be it tourists from abroad or local ministers, is the vast destruction of the coastlands north of Malindi by salt-works, which already altered the coastal dynamics to that extent that a whole lodge was taken by the sea, the Kenya Navy Base had to be transferred to higher grounds and the management of the space-observatory is endangered. This all is just man-made destruction and the guilt can not be blamed on sea-rise due to global warming or any disaster like a Tsunami. It happens because people cause it, while in Malindi’s hinterland the last forests are illegally plundered of hardwood to be sold as “Fine Italian Furniture” to rich Europeans or as charcoal to cook the poor folk’s food as well as to fuel the rich man’s barbecue.

What is more obvious to the eye is the red silt right in front of Malindi which makes the waters look diseased but which actually stems from unwise agricultural practices and the soil erosion caused along the Sabaki River, which reaches the sea just north of Malindi and during the peak holiday season - when the current flows southwards - stains Malindi’s coastal waters bloody red. Good breading ground for the shrimps some might say. Yes, but only if there are some shrimps and quiet mangrove zones left by the scoopers. Otherwise this load of inland soil just contributes to the insiltation of the coral reef and its death.

The recent Asian Tsunami which wiped away the many illegal shrimp-farms, who had destroyed the natural coastal ecosystems, as well as their unprotected hinterland in South-East-Asia must be a warning to the coastal states in the Western Indian Ocean too. It once more showed that dense mangrove forests and intact, living reefs are the best coastal protection.


Kenya produces about 180,000 tonnes of fish and fishery products per year valued over US$ 90 million and more than 120,000 tonnes (around 70 per cent) of the total annual catch goes to the export-based fish processing industries, of which the Nile perch fillets from Lake Victoria constitute over 80 per cent of the exports. While the European Union as largest buyer with its import regulations and the competition with neighbouring countries Tanzania and Uganda safeguard at least some regulations concerning the Lake Victoria fishing and the processing standards, the seafood fishing and production runs more or less in Wild-West manners. Minister Joseph Konzollo Munyao slaps his own government into the face, since he not only tolerates but actually licenses fishing methods contrary to the laws of Kenya. The Fisheries Act lists shrimp trawling within 5 nautical miles clearly as a prohibited fishing method. Any changes to the law would first have to be ratified by parliament. But Minister Joseph Konzollo Munyao and his fishing friends seem to be above the laws of the land.

Since the new environment bill was enacted, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) for Kenya demands Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) for all kinds of ventures and recently started to even request such from poor small-scale-farmers and out-growers who can not even pay the fees. But in the industrial marine fisheries sector of Kenya EIAs are unheard of and have so far neither been requested nor conducted. The environment bill, however, opens now another possibility for Kenyan citizens, who are concerned about environmental destruction: They have the right to sue the state, even if they are not affected directly, and it is expected that the first such cases in the marine sector will come up soon, which is certainly a better way to re-establish respect for the rights of the artisanal fishermen and the coastal communities than endless meetings and workshops with people who simply want to continue bad business as usual.

So far it must be concluded that the Kenya Government has failed miserably to take its oversight and regulatory functions concerning the ocean fisheries serious. It is therefore also high time that the Southwest Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission, whose establishment under FAO guidance has now been dragging on for years, is finalized and strict regulations against the over-fishing are implemented. While present practice is like a cat and mouse game, where conscientious citizens and officials likewise have to run after the industrial scoopers to proof their wrongdoing, the fishing industry just sits back and says: “Proof it!” – while, if detrimental actions are proven, usually no prosecution follows. The Kenya Government therefore must turn this around, place the burden of proof on the exploiters and make sure the Chief Justice, Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecution are doing their job.

Sustainable resource utilization and Fair Trade still are just buzzwords for the Kenyan natural resources sector and unless the NARC Government starts to open its eyes, ears and hearts to the local people who daily witness the plunder or due to economic hardship even take part in it and to seriously enforce the protection of the marine as well as the terrestrial resources, all consumers of marine products deriving from Kenya must know that they are part and parcel of the destruction of the coastal ecosystems along the whole western Indian Ocean coastline.

While the term sustainability often enough is wrongly understood as the task to maintain the sustainability of growing lifestyles of the upper one percent of the socio-economic strata, we have to realize that what actually must be applied is the core of niche-ecology, which teaches that any species can only live on the actual surplus of the gross natural production, which is not required by other species of the system for their survival. This is how the dynamic balance and stability is achieved in intact ecosystems. Applying this to the Kenyan marine ecosystem simply means that a total stop and a moratorium on all marine industrial fishing has to be put in place in Kenya right now, if there shall anything be rescued for this and the next generation of Kenyan local fishermen.

And though it has been common in Kenya to kill (in real terms) the messenger rather than to listen to the message or to overcome the reported malpractices, there is a chance that the new Kenya Government this time will actually do something about the causes and problems, simply because the Kenyan messengers have become too numerous to kill and too knowledgeable and outspoken to quieten them all.

© 2005 WTN / ECOP-marine with additional reporting from Malindi, Mombasa, Tanga and Cape Town

Further interesting reading:

Who Owns the Kenya Coast? St/SAADFIN5.html

Understanding Fisheries
Associated Livelihoods and the Constraints to their
Development in Kenya and Tanzania


Marine Science Country Profiles - Kenya 


Update: January 28, 2005

Miners of salt get warning


The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has warned salt harvesting firms in Malindi against contaminating water resources.

NEMA director general Prof Ratemo Michieka said the Authority was aware that some salt firms were using non-environmental friendly salt harvesting procedures that were contaminating fresh water reservoirs.

"We have received numerous complaints from members of the public regarding pollution of water in the area and we are taking action," said Prof Michieka.

The NEMA boss added that the Authority had already written to concerned firms, warning them to either stop harvesting salt or to modify their operations.

"Whoever is involved in the mining should be mindful of not only the community around but also the environment," he said.

Noting that water was a very vital commodity to the community, Prof Michieka said NEMA would not allow pollution of natural water reservoirs to go on unabated. 

The NEMA director general, who was addressing participants at a workshop on coastal resources management held at the Mombasa Beach Hotel, was responding to complaints by Gongoni residents.


Update: February 04, 2005

Nile Perch fish shortage affects export to EU

By Standard Correspondent
04 Feb 2005

An acute shortage of catfish has hit Lake Victoria.

Lake Victoria Environment Management Programme (LVEMP) project co-ordinator, Susan Imende, said yesterday the shortage is affecting export of Nile Perch to the European Union (EU).

The catfish is used as bait to catch Nile Perch.

The Western Kenya Assistant Director of Fisheries, Mr Okumu Mak’Ogola, said fish exports to EU earn the country over Sh4 billion.

However, over 55,000 fishermen had been experiencing difficulties catching Nile Perch and tilapia

Imende said the shortage is due to breeding problems in the lake.

She said catfish are secretive and breed in muddy sections of river banks, adding that massive cultivation along the banks and deforestation had interfered with the breeding.

She said LVEMP has embarked on a catfish-breeding project at Sitecko wetland in Busia.

Imende said they use test tubes to breed the catfish in special ponds.

Last week, 11 Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture members led by Franklin toured the project.

Imende asked the fisheries personnel and marine police to intensify patrols around banks of key rivers.


Update: February 18, 2005

Fishermen promised government protection


The government is concerned about trawling along the Indian Ocean shoreline, Vice-President Moody Awori says.

The VP said the government was aware that trawling denied local fishermen a source of livelihood and it was in the process of formulating a policy that would protect their interests.

Mr Awori was speaking when he launched the Bahari Constituency Strategic Plan for Development for 2005/2007 at Mnarani Club in Kilifi town.

As a matter of priority, Mr Awori advised the Bahari Constituency Development Fund Committees to consider funding local fishermen to purchase bigger boats and modern fishing gear so that they could venture into the deep seas.

The VP called on the local fishermen to form co-operative societies that would enable them to secure loans to improve their fishing activities.

However, Mr Awori warned that over-fishing along the coastal waters could be destructive to the fragile marine eco-system.

Bahari MP Joe Khamis complained that trawlers were operating within the restricted five nautical miles off the coastline. He said this was behind the decline in the fish stock in Kilifi.

"The coral reef is also threatened by heavy erosion because of the destruction caused by the trawlers, where fishing methods killed even small fish which they then dumped into the sea," he said.

The local fishermen and marine conservation volunteers in both Kilifi and Malindi districts have often criticised the government for failing to stop foreign trawlers from fishing close to the coastline.


Update: March 12, 2005

Destruction by Prawn Trawlers


Three trawlers (Alpha Manyara. Amboseli and Serengeti) were trawling around Jamba Kavu / Fungwa yuu (about 6 Nautical miles off Malindi Marine Park) between February 10th and 17th February 2005. During the same time 14 dead turtles were washed ashore between Malindi south and Sabaki.

With the prawn trawling season coming closer, conservationists, artisanal fishermen, sports fishermen and diving clubs are getting worried on the negative effects of prawn trawling and the large scale killing of juvenile fish along with destruction of fish nests. All cries in the past have been in vain creating suspicion of high level support and cover up.

The trawlers are seemingly above the law as they violate the Fisheries Act by trawling below 5 nautical miles. The Asst Director of Fisheries (Coast) Mr G. V. Monor has continually issued licenses for prawn trawling below 5 nautical miles contrary to the Fisheries Act. Refer to Part IV of the Fisheries Act Page 32  “trawling is a prohibited fishing method within 5 nautical miles of the coast of Kenya. Within the territorial waters of Kenya described under the maritime Zones Act”. Any changes to the law must be ratified by parliament. Then how can the Fisheries Department License prawn trawling between 3 to 5 nautical miles before the 5 nautical mile limit has been ratified in parliament?.

When the prawn-trawling license expired on June 9, 2004, the so called “scientific committee” that is over represented by trawler operators hurriedly approved an extension of prawn trawling for one more year without consulting stakeholders. Stakeholders feel cheated by the hijacking of the long awaited stakeholders meeting and by the unilateral decision to extend prawn trawling. All these events are not by coincidence but deliberately planned to favor the exploitation of prawns by commercial prawn trawlers under cover of research. Why license 5 prawn trawlers to conduct research that could be done by one trawler?. The destruction of prawn trawling has been confirmed world wide and the Fisheries Department does not have to reinvent the wheel on prawn trawling research that is conducted by prawn trawler operators instead of KEMFRI. Prawn trawling lacks support of the local fishermen including 19 Beach Mangement Units (BMU’s) out of 22 BMU’s. The challenge goes to Fisheries Department to call a stakeholders meeting to prove this.

 The licensing of prawn trawling has been done without an Environmental Impact Assessment and without involvement of a national  marine research body (Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute – KEMFRI) as required by law. Please refer to Cap 378 Page 82 Part V Fisheries Scientific research (37. 1). “No marine fisheries research shall be conducted in the maritime zones of Kenya without the express consent of and subject to conditions imposed by the Kenyan Scientific Authority and without a permit by the Director”.

Has Fisheries Department in conjunction with prawn trawler operators taken over the research mandate from KEMFRI or is it the use of thorax to favor the rich trawlers?.  

The unlimited support to prawn trawlers extended by the Fisheries Department has contributed to the neglect of community concerns, environmental concerns and deliberate refusal by trawler operators to attend meetings at the District level. In the past the trawler operators have continually given false promises that have been minuted in meetings, only to buy time and eventually getting a go ahead from higher offices in the Fisheries Department. No doubt the trawler operators are special to the Department of Fisheries and are seemingly above the law. A full scale investigation could reveal the level of compromise and possible high level connection.

One of the most notorious scoopers: The trawler Alpha Manyara, who seems to be under the special protection of the Minister of Livestock and Fisheries Development, Mr. Munyao, himself. (Pictures & Collage: RO)


Update: August 11, 2005


Somalia and Kenya Coastwatch in full alert conc. sub-standard tanker now on the way to Mombasa / Kenya while consumers in Kenya are up in arms against petroleum companies who increase fuel prices unjustified.

Mombasa / Kenya - 11. 08. 2005 - WTN - The oil tanker MT Gernmar Commander is currently on its way along the Western-Indian Ocean coasts of Somalia. Two days ago it had been refused entry into the waters of coastal states in the Gulf Region, most likely because the technical standard and the integrity of the vessel is in question and the vessel has a very poor inspection status. It is, however, also not clear yet if the crude oil it carries is not sub-standard too.


The vessel has failed to comply with the internationally prescribed standards for oil tankers, especially because it is a single hull tanker, which compromises the safety standards of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) - prescribing a double-hull for oil transports - and is creating a real danger of accidental oil spills, which would have a devastating effect on the marine life, property and lifelihoods of the fishing communities of the coastal states along its route.

After the ship had been refused entry into the waters of the UAE, it is surprising to hear that it is actually on its way to Kilindini harbour of Mombasa in Kenya. The vessel is carrying 82,795 metric tonnes of crude oil, which now shall be discharged at Mombasa Oil Terminal. At present somewhere along the Somali coast, the ship instructed by its agent Sturrock Shipping Ltd. is scheduled to arrive at Mombasa on 13. August 2005 at 06h00 in the morning. The oil cargo is said to belong at present to KOBIL Ltd., an International and Multinational Private petroleum products company with close links to the Kenyan opposition-politician and entrepreneur Nicolas Biwott and a group of Israeli businessmen. Together with KENOL Ltd. it is managed by Jacob I. Segman. He markets also motor oils from Castrol, a company, which claims on its website it would care for the environment. Their statement: "We are committed to comply with environmental laws and regulatory standards on a worldwide basis!", however, seem not ever to have reached the ears of the KOBIL management, otherwise they would not engage in transporting their oil in single-hull tankers. Also the last oil-spill in April in Mombasa was caused by oil belonging to Kobil and was carried by a single-hull tanker. The MT Ratna Shahil spilled at least 5 million litres of crude oil at Kilindini Harbour.

Warned about the potential hazard of this vessel, the Kenya authorities in a quickly assembled "stakeholders"-meeting, where only governmental officials and industry players were present, so far have only declared that the government would refuse responsibility, if anything happens, but no order has been given to turn that vessel away from Kenya waters. The International Safety Management Code, 1997, requires the establishment of a national oil spill response contingency plan and the treaty facilitates the vetting of vessels that call at any port to determine their safety standards.


This serious situation - provoking a potentially catastrophic event of marine and coastal pollution - comes during a stand-off between the petrol companies and the Kenya Government. At present the oil cartels operating in Kenya, citing as reason a tax dispute with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), try jointly very hard to create an artificial fuel shortage in order to re-gain the tax-advantages, to push the retail prices for refinery products higher and higher as well as to break the top price sealing advised by the Ministry of Energy.

This struggle caused a very critical situation whereby the storage tanks of Kenya's sole refinery are full to the brim and the crude oil storage at the terminal are likewise filling up, while petrol stations in Western Kenya are already running dry.

Kenya Petroleum Refineries General Manager Chris House therefore had to announce today that if the petroleum products will not be flowing from his storage into the distribution networks immediately, he will have to close down production within the coming five days. This would be the case, if the mineral oil companies and the government would remain at loggerheads. Meanwhile in the whole country a serious fuel shortage has been created by the oil companies.

Kenya's Energy Minister, Hon. Simeon Nyachae therefore announced today that he would revoke the licenses of those mineral oil companies, who do not lower the artificially increased prices and resume full delivery immediately. The prices at the Kenyan petrol stations actually should have fallen, because the Kenya Shilling stands stronger to the Dollar and Kenya does not face any problem in the supply of crude from low price sources.

While Kenya Oil Company Limited - Kenol - was established in 1959, is a public company quoted at the Nairobi Stock Exchange Kobil Petroleum Limited is a private company established in 1984. The two companies, however, have operated under a joint management agreement since 1985. Kenol and Kobil have an elaborate retail network in Kenya, with over 180 service stations. The two companies are strong players in the market, commanding a market share of over 20%. On 25 May 2005 Kenol announced a 44 per cent increase in pre-tax profit in its interim half year results for the six months ended March 31, 2005 over the same period ended March 31, 2004.

"The 3 Shilling increase is based on exploitation!", Minister Nyachae declared.

If all the storage tanks are full to the brim and consumer prices only artificially been exaggerated, why then is the Kenya Government taking the risk to allow a single hull oil tanker into its waters, many Kenyans ask, in whose memory  the occurrence of the last oil spill in April 2005 caused by the Indian Oil tanker MT Ratna Shalin at the Mombasa port is still fresh. But not even the official incident report for this latest oil spill has been released. Many organizations demand to know the extent of environmental and property damage occasioned by that particular spill, which could not be contained, though it occurred just in the harbour and in front of those who are supposed to handle such a spill. It is surprising that until now the Kenya National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) has not even issued the assessment report while it is claimed that the extent of damage was much more than the 1 million US$ compensation estimated by the Kenyan authorities.

Kenya just recently declared its full authority over the 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of its waters. It would therefore be necessary for all the concerned Kenyan authorities to put the required contingency measures in place to ensure rapid response in case an accident and an oil spill occur, when MT Gernmar Commander would be allowed entry. But Kenya lacks of a response mechanism and equipment, which could handle an oil catastrophe caused by a breaking single hull tanker of that size.


The Kenyan Seafarers Assistance Program together with environmental organizations therefore called today on the Government to involve all the stakeholders and particularly the fishing communities, community based organizations and civil society organizations in the decision making process concerning such cases and demand to turn this tanker away from Kenyan waters.

"Until that grave danger to the marine and coastal environment and serious threat to the livelihoods of the coastal people in form of a single hull vessel with over 80.000 tonnes of hazardous crude oil is not turned away from Kenya and until KOBIL Ltd. is one of those companies, which have increased their prices at the pumps exorbitantly and unjustified, environmental, marine and other civil society groups will start from tomorrow to call for a boycott of KENOL / KOBIL as serious means to demand environmental safety and to turn the tanker away from Kenya as well as a first step in support of the public's and the minister's demands to immediately reduce the costs of fuel, while resuming distribution immediately.", was declared today in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.


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Update: August 14, 2005

Oil ship docks despite ban

East African Standard
Sunday August 14, 2005

By Philip Mwakio and Willis Oketch

A single-hull oil tanker carrying 82,795 metric tonnes of crude oil docked at the port of Mombasa yesterday morning.

Sources said the MT Gernmar Commander had been warned to keep off the Gulf region ports over a ban by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which has barred all single hulls transporting oil.

Single-hull oil tankers have no inner lining enforcement on their tanks to cushion against puncturing, which results in oil spillage.

The giant oil tanker arrived during the dawn high tide, at 7.45am and docked at the Kipevu oil terminal.

Yesterday, maritime sources confirmed that the vessel was registered in Monrovia, Liberia, but said its owners had not been declared in any of the documents available.

The vessel’s local agent is Sturrock Shipping Limited, according to a 14-day shipping list of port activities released by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA). Ecoterra International, a global society on ecology and sound economy, said the oil cargo belonged to a Kenyan petroleum company.

Maritime sources, who have been monitoring the ship in the past week, say oil was suspected to be from ‘rogue ports’ in Iraq, which are capable of loading in disregard of international bans. Sources said although the ship was not destined to stop at any port in the United Arab Emirates or the Gulf region, it was given a warning whenever it passed not to get into their ports’ jurisdiction since its category of transport had been outlawed.

Ecoterra, maritime sources said, had issued an alert over the vessel’s arrival at Kilindini port before it started approaching Mombasa. Ecoterra said the vessel’s arrival comes at a time when a stand-off between petroleum companies and the Government over a new tax directive has caused a fuel shortage, which might have given the importer an excuse to defy the ban.

Separately, the Seafarers Assistance Programme (SAP), Kenya Chapter, yesterday renewed its call on the Government to stop the vessel from off-loading its cargo in Mombasa. The SAP co-ordinator, Mr Andrew Mwangura, told The Sunday Standard the Government had not made a decision on the matter.

In an email alert, Ecoterra International says the vessel had been denied entry in the Gulf Region because of its technical standards.

‘’The vessel has a very poor inspection status and it remains baffling if the crude oil it carries is up to standard,’’ the report by Ecoterra said.

KPA chief harbour master Twalib Khamisi said the port’s management was consulting with the Kenya Maritime Authority before acting.

On April 7, an Indian owned tanker, Mt. Ratna Shahill, a single-hull vessel, also chartered by the same local petroleum company, spilled about five million litres of crude oil into the expansive Port Reitz creek at Kilindini harbour.

The ship, which was carrying 78,000 metric tonnes of oil, had one of its tanks punctured. At least 5,000 tonnes were estimated to have drifted afloat, causing extensive damage to marine life on a peninsular off the port and killing hundreds of mangrove trees.

The MT Gernmar Commander after it docked at the Mombasa Port yesterday. Sources said the single-hull oil tanker carrying 82,795 metric tonnes of crude oil had been warned to keep off the Gulf region.

Pic by Maarufu Mohammed


Update: 14.12.2005

Fisheries film sparks protest

Story by JOHN OYWA
Publication Date: 12/14/2005

An award-winning documentary film that likens Lake Victoria's fishing industry to the slave trade and colonialism has sparked protests by international conservation organisations.

The Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature have launched a campaign to withdraw Darwin's Nightmare, arguing that it is inaccurate and wrongly depicts an industry that supports 40 million East Africans.

The 107-minute film, which has won 16 awards in Europe and nominated for the prestigious Oscar Award, describes the fisheries, especially the Nile perch trade, as "an example of the deadliest humiliation for the people of Africa."

The World Bank, the European Union and the Swedish International Development Agency have spent billions of dollars on conservation and socio-economic projects around the lake.

Shot by Austrian Hubert Sauper around the lake last year, Darwin's Nightmare portrays the industry in the three East African countries as "unhygienic" and "exploitative."

It says also that the lucrative perch exports to Europe is like supplying weapons to armed militias and civil warlords in the Great Lakes region.

But Mr Sauper, who lives in France, is defiant and describes the film as a "a striking reality." In a synopsis posted on his website, he says the globalisation of African markets is the third and deadliest humiliation for the people after the slave trade and colonisation.

The lake region, according to the film, remains a land of massive epidemics, food shortages and civil wars despite the booming fish trade for Europeans. "After hundreds of years of slavery and colonisation of Africa, globalisation of the African markets is the third and deadliest humiliation for the people of the continent", he says.

Cargo planes ferrying Lake Victoria's fish fillets to Europe return with weapons being used in civil wars in eastern Democratic Congo and other Great Lakes countries, he adds.

"Huge hulking ex-Soviet cargo planes come daily to collect latest catches of fish in exchange for their south-bound cargo – the Kalashnikovs and ammunition for the uncounted wars in the dark centres of the continent."

The documentary, shot mainly on the Tanzanian shores of the lake, shows clips of filthy beaches and impoverished fishermen.

But in a recent harshly worded open letter to Mr Sauper, LVFO chief executive Thomas Maembe and IUCN's Eastern Africa regional director, Dr Alice Kaudia, dismiss it as "sensational work driven by greed for quick sales."

They accuse the filmmaker of concentrating on poverty and misery and ignoring efforts already made by Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda and donors to improve the fishermen's livelihood.


Update: 10.04.2007

Lobby groups raise concerns over threat to turtle habitats



Publication Date: 4/10/2007

Marine conservationists have raised fresh concern over the alarming number of turtle deaths along the Kenyan coast. 

Over the last two years, many dead sea turtles have been swept ashore on the Kenyan coastline. Conservationists attribute the deaths to bad fishing methods. 

Project coordinator of the local Ocean Trust/Watamu Turtle Watch Steve Trott said the biggest threat was posed by trawling in shallow waters. The use of gill nets, jariffe nets and industrial long line fishing is also to blame. 

“About 40 turtles are washed dead on Watamu Marine Park beach but international studies have shown those that are washed ashore represent just about 10 per cent of the total number. 

“Most of them drown in fishing gear while most turtles sink to the seabed or are being taken far out to high seas by ocean currents,” he said. 

Mr Trott said the death toll for Watamu only could be as high as 400 annually and was a very small fraction of cases along the entire Kenyan coastline. 

Most of the dead turtles, the conservationists say, have their flippers cut off at the shoulder and severe lacerations around the neck, which are caused by large fishing nets. 

The Kenya Sea Turtle Conservation Committee (Kescom), the organisation that looks into the welfare of sea creatures, says 85 per cent of the causes of deaths and threats to turtles are due to human activities. 

Kescom coordinator Andrew Wamukota said, apart from bad fishing habits and poaching, there was great interference with turtle breeding areas. 

“Despite the measures to protect them, consumption of turtles is still very high in some areas... Turtles are known to have high medicinal value,” he said. 

He said that data available to researchers and conservationists did not reflect the overall true picture of the situation but said it was alarming. 

Between 1998 and 2006, Mr Wamukota said over 200,000 eggs had been deposited for nesting on beaches but the record indicated that only 2,500 turtles had survived. 

“Deaths and consumption might not be the only reason for the scenario because the turtles are migratory animals but the development along beaches has also contributed to the disappearance of these animals,” he said. 

But fishermen on the other hand are saying they are not to blame because they have been very careful while fishing in habitats for turtles. 

A fisherman in Malindi, Mr Ali Shaibu Shekue, said the Government was to blame for allowing trawlers to operate and developers to put up structures in the breeding areas. 

“Turtles are very sensitive creatures and their disappearance is largely because human beings have encroached on their habitats and this has nothing to do with local fishermen,” he said. 

Mr Shekue said the conservation methods used by international organisations were not compatible to the conditions at the coast, saying the problem could be addressed if local fishermen were actively involved. 

Mr Wamukota said the fishermen had a strong case but said in the past, there was little human interference and the numbers of the turtles were still higher. 

“What we want is the fishermen to join in the war to save them for posterity,” he said. 

The conservationists are now asking the Fisheries Department to develop a comprehensive management plan for marine fisheries. 

“The Government has to regulate the number of commercial and industrial fishing vessels operating in Kenyan waters. It should also enforce international rules that force trawlers to carry Turtle Excluder Devices in their nets,” said Mr Trott. 

The devices function as an escape door at the back of the nets, allowing the turtle to free itself after being caught. 

A status report on trawling in Malindi–Ungwana Bay prepared by the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute in 2002 shows that complaints of declining stocks and environment degradation as a result of such type of fishing had been raised far much earlier. 

The report suggested measures to minimise socio-economic problems associated with resource use as local fishermen raised concern over fishing gear destruction. 

Similar concerns had been raised by environmentalists that prawn trawling activities were causing increased mortality for sea turtles.



Mixed fortunes as ban on trawling stays in force


Nearly a year after the Government imposed a ban on trawling in the Indian Ocean, the fishing industry is experiencing mixed fortunes. 

Trawler owners who used to reap millions of shillings from prawn harvesting in the Malindi-Ungwana Bay are already feeling the pinch as their ships stay idle. 

Local fishermen and dealers have been lobbying the Government to review the ban fearing the collapse of their businesses. 

The companies have resorted to importing fish for the local market after laying off workers. 

Although the ban was initially intended to safeguard the environment and increase fish stocks, a survey showed that most areas in the region have been experiencing a shortage of fish. 

The fisheries department has confirmed this, saying that the gap left by the trawlers is yet to been filled. 

Not enough 

Local fishermen do not have the means to go beyond the reef, about five nautical miles, where there are abundant fish stocks, said an official of the department. 

“The ban alone is not enough to look into the issue of trawlers. What is needed is a management plan that will not only control trawling but find ways of empowering the local fishermen to fully utilise the economic potential of the sea,” said the official. 

One of the companies that has been affected by the ban, said it was importing between 10 to 15 containers with more than 200 tonnes of fish a month from Japan, China, Namibia and Oman. 

Mr Satyajit Nath, the commercial general manager of marine company Alpha Group, said the demand for fish was still high and had been affected by the ban. 

“(Our) vessels that were fishing for prawns, mainly for the export market, have become a burden to us as we have to pay the berthing charges, maintenance, insurance and keep a skeleton crew on board while we do not get anything in return,” he complained. 

Be in business 

Before the ban, the firm would harvest 10 tonnes of prawns for export and 45 tonnes of fish a month for the domestic market. 

“For us, we have to be in business but while we lose in terms of wasted equipment, the Government too is losing because the dollars that the country used to earn through our exports are now going to importing fish,” said Mr Nath. 

Environmental lobby groups and some fishermen, on the other hand, say the ban has had some positive impact on the marine ecosystem and should not be lifted until measures have been put in place to control trawling. 

Some fishermen say the ban should be lifted while others say it should stay. 

According to Kenya Marine Forum (KMF) officials, the short production cycle of prawns has shown signs of recovery following the ministerial ban. 

A KMF coordinator for Kiunga zone in Lamu, Mr Ali Shebwana, however, noted that the fin fish production cycle had not fully recovered and called for the sustaining of the ban. 

“The over 10 years of continuous prawn trawling in Malindi-Ungwana Bay area has damaged the marine ecosystems extensively, prompting the need to maintain the ban for full recovery of critical inshore habitats and for equitable resource distribution to small-scale fishers that are the majority,” he said in a statement to the Nation. 

Mr Shebwana said fishermen from Kipini, Marereni, Ngomeni and Malindi had improved income from prawn and fish catches. 

“Improved catches and supplies have pushed down the prices of certain species of prawns from Sh500 to Sh200 a kilo in the local market. 

Small-scale fishers are now eyeing the export market for better prices. All these used to go to trawler owners but local fishermen can benefit if they are assisted financially to boost production,” he said. 

Main beneficiaries 

Fisherman Ali Shaibu Shekue, however, claimed the move to have the ban lifted was being instigated by some Government officials who were the main beneficiaries of trawling. 

“Research has already shown that trawling is detrimental to the marine environment and so far no measures have been taken to mitigate against such problems when the lid on trawling is lifted,” he said. Another fisherman, Mr Yusuf Abdulrazak, says that only small-scale traders are bearing the brunt of the ban. 

“Not all fishermen pushed for the ban because people were benefiting from it and that is why we are collecting signatures from fishermen to have the Government reconsider its decision,” he said. 

Assistant minister for Livestock and Fisheries Development Abu Chiaba said the ban was there to stay because research had shown that the system was detrimental to the marine ecosystem and was harming small-scale fishermen. 

Fisheries policy 

“We know that some people have been going round trying to convince local fishermen to sign a petition urging the Government to lift the ban but that will not work because we know the damage trawling has done and would do to the marine ecosystem. 

“The Government has an obligation to safeguard the interests of the majority of Kenyans and not a few dealers who have been minting money that even the Government has not been fully benefiting from,” Mr Chiaba said. 

But Seafarers Assistance Programme coordinator Andrew Mwangura said the problems facing the fishing industry were mainly caused by lack of a fisheries policy and an outdated Act. 

Foreign vessels 

“The trawlers whose activities were stopped,” he said, “were only those fishing for prawns, but there are hundreds of other vessels that fish in the deep sea and paying very little money to the Government in terms of revenue. The whole industry needs to be reorganised so that all the tonnage that these foreign vessels get from Kenyan waters can be ascertained and charged cess accordingly. 

“Currently, they only pay a licence fee to the Government which is too small compared to the millions of shillings they rake in,” Mr Mwangura said. 

The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute chairman, Prof Shaukat Abdulrazak, said his organisation had not done research to determine the success of the ban.



Alarm Bells After Death of Tens of Sea Turtles in a Month

The Nation (Nairobi)

12 February 2008

Patrick Mayoyo


The killing of 28 sea turtles in less than a month on the Kenyan coast has raised the alarm among conservationists.

Initial investigations portray a catastrophe of international proportions.

The deaths were not only the highest number recorded on the Kenyan coast in less than a month but the biggest set-back to conservation efforts.

According to data compiled by both the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Kenya Sea Turtle Conservation Committee (Kescom), 22 marine turtles have been killed at Vipingo and two at Kuruwitu both in Kilifi, three at Diani in Kwale and one in Mombasa last month.

The sea turtles are endangered species protected under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (Cites) that prohibits commercial trade in the animal and its parts.

The programme coordinator of Kescom, Mr Andrew Wamukota, said initial investigations into the matter had disclosed that all the dead turtles had been caught in fishing nets.

This has raised queries on the monitoring of fishing activities in the country as fishermen are supposed to comply not only with local fishing regulations but also international ones.

Mr Wamukota said although the gill nets in which the turtles are caught are not prohibited, fishermen were using them unprofessionally.

"Some of the nets stretch up to long distances and are turned into beach seines thereby resulting in them catching even turtles," he said.

He said following the alarming rate at which turtles had died at the Kenyan coast there's need to review the licensing of gill nets to prevent fishermen from using them unprofessionally.

Possible link

Mr Wamukota said they were investigating the possible link of fishermen from a neighbouring country in the scandal after two of them were arrested fishing in Kenya's territorial waters using a local fisherman's licence.

"The Fisheries Department is set to revoke the licence of the local fisherman as a deterrent to those who are encouraging such underhand fishing practices," he said.

Researches conducted by both the Fisheries Department and the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (Kemfri) show that apart from the threats posed to turtles by artisanal fishermen, trawling remains a big threat to the marine creatures.

Both studies reported a 70 per cent by-catch rate that includes turtles by trawlers and it established that Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) currently in use are not effective in the protection of the animals from trawling activities.

The research shows that there were a total of 18 cases of incidental capture of turtles in the trawl nets during the survey period.

The Current Status of Trawler Fishery of Malindi-Ungwana Bay survey recommends the development of appropriate bycatch reducer devices to curb incidental capture of young fish and turtles.

According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) the biggest threats to turtle conservation come from dynamite fishing, indiscriminate harvesting of eggs, conversion of the sandy areas where turtles nest to resorts and other commercial activities.

Coastal resources

Trade in turtle eggs has been a source of income for many fishing communities not only on the Kenyan coast but throughout the entire Indian Ocean region where most of them depend on coastal resources for livelihood.

The turtle egg is popular as a delicacy-with some believing it is an aphrodisiac while its shell is considered a choice material for decorative items among some coastal communities.

According to WWF, Southeast Asia is considered the world's biggest consumer of turtle eggs with Hong Kong, Singapore and Brunei being cited out as some of the leading markets.

Research has shown that although sea turtles have managed to survive natural hazards over the years they are now under severe threat from human activity.

It is because of these developments that the United Nations has put in place concerted efforts to save the endangered species.

Conservationists in the country have consequently put in place a number of initiatives aimed at creating awareness as part of the global effort to protect the endangered sea creatures.

According to Mr Wamukota, there are more than 18 community-based groups involved in different turtle conservation initiatives on the Kenyan coast through the Kescom project.

Mr Wamukota said 25 countries under the Indian Ocean Southeast Asian (IOSEA) region, which include Kenya, have signed a memorandum of understanding for the protection of the sea turtles.

"Through this initiative we are expected to develop an integrated sea turtles conservation framework for the Western Indian Ocean region under the Nairobi convention," he said.

The Kescom official said human impacts contributed to more than 85 per cent of turtle deaths in the country.

"Of the seven known species of marine turtles in the world, five are found in Kenya. They are loggerhead, leatherback, olive ridley, hawksbill and green turtle. Three of them, the green, the hawksbill and the olive ridley nest in Kenya while the others only come to forage," he said.

Mr Wamukota said since 1997 more than 2,000 turtle nests have been reported in Kenya resulting in more than 150,000 hatchings. However, research has shown that out of 1,000 hatchings only one turtle reaches maturity.

Sold by fishermen

He says although studies had shown more than 150,000 turtle eggs have hatched along the Kenyan coast in the past 10 years many of these ended up being sold by fishermen.

"And a belief among some Kenyan communities that if you take turtle oil you will get cured of asthma has also greatly contributed to the high turtle mortality in the country," he said.

Mr Wamukota said it is estimated that about 30,000 hatchings were reported on the Kenyan coast last year although the exact number will be established after all the data has been compiled.

The campaign to enhance sea turtle conservation activities in the country have been intensified through an integrated project sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAid).

The project brings together different stakeholders who include WWF, Kescom and the KWS.

"This project aims to involve more Government institutions and local communities in sea turtles conservation activities," he said.

He said the project would help build the capacity of the community monitoring system, introduce satellite sea turtles monitoring and spearhead awareness and education campaigns.



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Lake Victoria over-fishing threatens poor families

January 2, 2003

By Aloyce Menda

THE Lake Victoria over-fishing is threatening poor families on the Tanzanian side. Andrew Asilla Atonga says, in a study, that extensive fishing may cause multi-dimensional threats to food security around the lake. He cautions that if the current trend of fish exploitation continues, the East African Community states should expect a total collapse of the Lake Victoria fishing industry.

The burgeoning fish industry has already caused poverty to locals that depend on the lake fishes for their livelihood. These people are edged out of production, price marketing and processing of fish.

Women are particularly the most vulnerable as they were previously actively involved in the processing and marketing of fish, a task which has now been taken over by men.

Moreover, the unrestricted trade has increased food insecurity and reduced nutrition as families opt to get high income from the fish industry. Many poor families are now facing problems of getting alternative sources of protein and alternative sources of income around the lake.

Above all fish stocks in the lake are dwindling. The Nile perch, a famous specie, is a notable example. Data collected recently indicates that the fish is over exploited and hence there is need to take immediate action to avoid a collapse of the fishing industry, advises Atonga from the Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute.

Lake Victoria is historically important to the local communities for fisheries, agricultural and domestic water supply. Estimates show that the annual fish catch from the lake is between 400,000 to 500,000 tonnes, generating between US$ 300 and US$ 400 million.

Over 90 per cent of the total fish landed in Kenya comes from the lake despite the fact that the Kenyan part of the lake is only six per cent. Tanzanian part of the lake is 49 per cent while the Ugandan part is 43 per cent.

Lake Victoria occupies an area of 69,000 square kilometres and a volume of 2,700 cubic kilometres. It is the second largest fresh water body in the world after North America's Lake Superior.
Meanwhile, Tanzanian small-scale fishermen are poorer than petty fish traders. This contradicts the general assumption that since the fishermen catch fish freely they are likely to earn more income than fish traders.
On the contrary, fish petty traders are better off than fishermen as far as household incomes are concerned. This is because traders have enough time to engage in other occupations that can supplement their incomes while fishermen do not.

However, a policy intended to uplift the welfare of fishermen over other comparable groups should be established with great care. This is because it may inadvertently exacerbate over fishing by attracting more people into fishing. It is suggested that the fishery management policy in Tanzania should be subjected to studies on the relative welfare of fishermen in line with the poverty alleviation policy. In assessing the relative poverty of fishermen the core issue should be whether the fishing waters are over-fished or not. This is because over-fishing has been cited as the main cause of poverty among fishermen.

When water is over-fished, the fishermen spend more efforts and time to get very little fish in return. Indicators of over-fishing are declining catch per unit effort, disappearance of valuable species and emergence of illegal fishing such as poisoning, dynamite fishing and the use of smaller mesh nets for fishing.

When over fishing occurs in a certain water body, the traders will shift to another place but the fishermen cannot do so immediately. Fish catches will continue to dwindle and fishermen have to compensate their efforts by increasing prices.

However, traders and consumers may not buy their fishes and may opt for cost-effective sources. Over-fishing has occurred in several waters in Tanzania in the past. Available studies indicate that over-fishing was once very extensive in Zanzibar, Coast Region near Dar es Salaam harbour and Lake Victoria.

In all these cases artisan fishermen were the most vulnerable as their small investments are stationary while fish traders could easily shift positions- Business Times




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