Kenya is endowed with vast aquatic resources with successful aqua cultural potential. Highly varied climatic and geographic regions make up Kenya, a country whose territory covers a part of the Indian Ocean coastline, several large rivers, swamps and other water lands, a portion of the largest freshwater lake in Africa, all which support an abundance of native aquatic species. And all those water sources presently contribute much to the fish farming industry in Kenya.
Kenya has a long history of fishing with the Luo, Luhyia, and Abasuba ethnic groups having been active fishermen for more than five centuries. Until 20 years ago nearly all fish caught in Kenyan waters was consumed locally. Kenya started to export fish in the early 1980s, when fish processing factories were established around Lake Victoria.
Thus over the past 20 years, the fisheries sub-sector has gradually evolved from a domestic consumption oriented industry to an export oriented industry with value added processing being applied. Kenya is a coastal state with a marine coastline of 536 Kilometres and a well-developed marine fishing industry. In spite of this, Lake Victoria continues to dominate Kenya’s fishing output source. The lake currently accounts for over 90 percent of the tones of fish caught while marine fishing accounts for only 4 percent of the total output.
Fishing in Kenya is mostly carried out by artisanal fishermen operating small fishing boats in inland lakes and marine waters. A small proportion of fish in Kenya is obtained from fish farming (aquaculture). The inland lakes are Lake Victoria, Lake Turkana, Lake Baringo, Lake Naivasha and smaller Lakes including Chala and Jipe.
The largest species of fish processed and exported is the Nile Perch. Other commercially important species in the domestic market are the small sardine fish and tilapia. The Nile Perch is not a native species in Lake Victoria. The domestic Market commands about 70 percent of the total fish market. It is however not well defined or organized and involves buying fish at the beach by small scale traders and selling to various open-air markets and fish shops. The fish are sold either dried, fresh or processed for later consumption. The Artisanal Fish Processors (AFPs) prepare dried and smoked fish.
Availability of sources of fish including Lake Victoria, the second largest fresh water lake in the world and the strong growth in the fishing sub-sectors and its exports are reasons enough to invest hugely into the fishing industry. There is availability of local, regional and international markets for Kenyan fish and fish products, but still with such facts at hand, the country has started importing unprocessed fish from China.
Why should we import fish when we already have more than enough? Who came up with the idea of importing it? Such are the questions that we should be asking ourselves because this act don’t seem to be adding up at all. And is the imported fish especially from China safe for consumption?
It is said that the import is for the purposes of satisfying the high domestic demand. Why can’t the money being used for importation be used to develop the fishing capacity in the available fish sources in the country that are in a very bad state, some leading to the death if the species.
It is ironical because Kenya is blessed with a coastline in excess of 2,000 nautical miles in Indian Ocean, Lakes Victoria, Turkana, Baringo and Naivasha as well as several inland water bodies. According to the report, the imported tilapia is packaged, frozen and imported to Kenya. The imported fish is also sold in huge volumes at the Kisumu’s retail fish market. Fish processing companies in Kisumu have scaled down their operations due to lack of fish from Lake Victoria.
A lot more needs to be done so as to improve the status of the fishing industry in the country. We should not be wasting resources on matters that can be sorted out easily. By improving this sector, the economy of the country will also be improved.