BY PETER KOMBE
Kenya can earn more than Sh400 billion annually if the fisheries industry is sustainably exploited to the fully along its 600km stretch coastline.
Prof James Njiru, the Kenya Maritime and Fisheries Research Institute director says the fisheries sector contributes about five to 10 per cent of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP.)
According to him the RV Mtafiti has brought this country a huge potential to exploit the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) where a total catch estimated at billions of shillings waiting to be tapped.
Currently, through the tourism and shipping industries the country is earning approximately Sh157 billion and Sh60-70 billion respectively running to over Sh200 billion with the potential Sh400 billion Kenya could reap more than Sh800 billion from its blue economy sector.
Speaking to journalists after receiving a Belgium delegation at KMFRI offices at Mkomani in Nyali Subcounty, Mombasa County on May13, 2019, Prof Njiru, however, said climate change has disrupted the entire marine ecosystem leading to less food production for fish.
Apart from this, another challenge the marine biodiversity is plastic pollution (micro plastics and bigger plastics) that is posing a threat to aquamarine due to their being indigestible.
Raw sewer, according to the director, is another danger that the institute has raised with the County government and other stakeholders spew waste directly to the sea.
On the ongoing sand harvesting from the sea, Prof Njiru is concerned this operation is destroying coral reefs thus depleting aqua food reserves.
“We have deployed our researchers on the ground to ensure that they carry intensive research on areas where such operations are being conducted,” he said.
Turning to the RV Mtafiti which was formerly known as RV Zeeleuw, the professor said it was donated by the Belgium government to the Kenyan government in 2013. The vessel is 56 metres long with a capacity for 47 crew and scientists.
According to him the vessel has been equipped with different scientific equipment and already it has undertaken about 10 surveys in the territorial as well as the EEZ waters.
He said the general aim of the survey is to provide information on the fishery resources and to collect data and samples to describe the biophysical oceanography of the marine environment.
In a bid to propel the big 4 agendas, the institute has aquaculture branches in various parts of the country as a way of promoting fish farming.
The institute has constructed hatcheries in Kisii, Kirinyaga (Sagana) and Kisumu where fingerlings are grown to cater for the needs of fish farmers.
“We need to invest in fish production taking into consideration the fact that Kenya has been importing fingerlings from Uganda,” he said.
Previously, according to him, the country had been importing fingerlings from Uganda causing them to construct and install a fish production machine at Sangoro to breed fish stocks.
In his response, the Governor of West Flanders Carl De Caluwe said there is need for the Kenyan government to work together with the Belgium government in order to strengthen the maritime industry.
“Belgium faces similar problem like Kenya. What we can do is to strengthen our bond and work together to deal with the ever-changing climate conditions globally,” he added.
However, he cited that climate change is the worst enemy in the maritime industry as it was leading to a rise in water levels in the oceans and the sea worldwide.
DEPLETION OF FISH
Pwani University vice-chancellor Professor Mohamed Rajab decried the depletion of fish stocks in the ocean due to increasing sewage pollution.
He added the coastal belt was lacking fresh water because of the sea water intrusion to aquifers.
“In this partnership with Belgium, I look forward to resolving some of the challenges facing the marine ecosystem especially of the fish stocks going down,” he said adding that the situation requires intensive research to the impact of those challenges.
His Technical University of Mombasa (TUM) counterpart Leila Abubakar said there is need to exploit the energy available at the sea.
“As TUM, we really appreciate this partnership because out of we expect to maximise its benefits in the maritime studies due to our limited resources,” she added.
She noted the developed countries have capitalized on the sea to spruce their socioeconomic fronts through intensive research on mariculture.
Mombasa Senator Mohammed Faki urged the Mombasa County government in partnership with National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) to address water pollution in the sea.
According to him the local fishermen were decrying the pouring of raw sewer into the sea which is adversely affecting migration and death of aquatic life.
“Intensive research should be conducted in order to address the impact of sewer along the Kenyan coastline,” he said adding that the Belgium government is ready and committed in training researchers.
He appealed to KMFRI to disseminate information from its research findings so as to assist the local fishermen on the new fishing technology to exploit the huge potential in the sea.