BY ANDREW MWANGURA
For a very long time now local and foreign owned fishing vessels have fished along Kenyan waters contrary to the FAO International Plan of Action for the Management of Fishing Capacity and the Terromolinos Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels among other agreements.
All fishing vessels owned locally are very old and these old fishing vessels pose more than just a risk to the crews that sail on them.
When their value is so low, they are prime candidates for illegal operations as the possibility of the vessels being impounded carries very little financial risk for the owner.
As with many elderly ships, the value of the catch is likely to be many times the value of the vessels itself.
The fact that the average of the local and the world’s industrial fishing fleet has become as high as 22 years is a source of great concern and is not compatible with the concept of sustainable development.
There is a clear need for an effective scrapping program as well as a better management of the fishing fleet capacity, one which would also pay due regard to the availability of resources to prevent and eliminate excess fishing capacity.
NEED OF HARMONISING
There is also a need of harmonizing the Labor Relations Act, Fisheries Act and the Merchant Shipping Act.
There is also a need of observing paragraph 17.52 of Agenda 21 and the FAO Code of conduct for responsible fisheries requirements which states that flag states should provide full, detailed, accurate and timely reporting of catches and the fishing effort of vessels flying their flag.
Eighty-nine (89) Kenya seafarers serve aboard foreign flagged fishing vessels, 137 work on domestically owned or registered fishing vessels.
All of them except 107 are under paid and they work in slave-like conditions aboard under manned sub-standard ships of which are contrary to ILO instruments.
For, they are paid less than US$100 (about Sh10,000) contrary to the ILO minimum wage of US$625 (Sh62,500)
The ILO minimum wage takes into consideration a formula which reflects changes in consumer prices and exchange rates against the US dollar in forty-nine maritime countries and areas.
Apart from being under paid they work without proper working gear as well as balanced diet.
Kenyan seafarers also work aboard vessels operating in war like operations areas without being paid a bonus of which is contrary to international maritime labor standards.
The international maritime standards states that when a vessel enters into an area where warlike operations take place, the crew member should be paid a bonus amounting to double the basic wage for the duration of the vessels stay in such area.
Similarly, the compensation for disability and death shall be doubled.