Alarm as fishing crafts and cages in Lake Victoria rises

The fishing community from Kao beach in North Kadem ward held a peaceful demonstration in Lake Victoria waters on September 16, 2019. [Caleb Kingwara/Standard]
The number of fishing boats operating on the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria has increased from 14,365 in 2016 to 16,183 in 2019, a new study has revealed.

The number is the highest recorded since the year 2000, sparking concerns about the sustainability of current fishing activities in the lake.

The increase in the number of fishing boats was recorded across all the counties that border the lake. Also on the rise is the number of fish cages set up in the lake.

Yesterday, the regional assistant director of fisheries, Dr Christine Okoth, described the statistics as "worrying."

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Homa Bay County had the highest number of fishing boats at 6,247, a 38 per cent increase, followed by Siaya at 5,090, a 31 percent increase.

Migori followed with 1986 (12.4 per cent increase), Kisumu 1,466 (9 per cent), and Busia 1,394 (8.6 per cent).

In terms of fishing crews, Homa Bay County led with 19,360 (41 per cent increase) followed by Siaya (14,704).

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Migori had a fishing crew of 5,788, followed by Busia (3,856) and Kisumu (3,758).

According to the survey, the main fishing gear used were gill nets, hooks, small seines, beach seines, monofilament nets, cast nets, boat seines and traps with varying distribution across the administrative units.

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On overall, the crew used 23,427 gill nets-a 14 per cent increase.

Up to 3,330,994 long line hooks were used, as were handline hooks (2,273), beach seines (1,077), boat seines (1,050), small seines (11,673) monofilament nets (27,584), cast nets (79) and traps (951).

Apart from handline hooks whose numbers dropped this year, there was a general increase in all the other fishing gear comparing to 2016.

The survey found that there were 3,696 fish cages in the lake, spread in Kisumu, Siaya, Migori, Homa Bay and Busia counties.

In Siaya, for instance, the number of fish cages has risen to 2,989 in the past three years followed by Homa Bay which has 479 fish cages.

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Busia County has 120 cages followed by Kisumu (85) and Migori (23).

According to the fisheries department, the figures point out the need to regulate fishing activities in the lake.

"We are planning to sensitise fish cage investors so that they can do it in a sustainable manner that will allow the lake to regenerate," said Dr Okoth.

However, beach managers complained that little is being done to restock the lake with fingerlings.

"We want the lake restocked to increase fish population that is now threatened by over-fishing," said National Beach Management Unit chairman Tom Guda.

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The Lake Victoria Fisheries Frame Survey 2019 was funded by the government through the State Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture and the Blue Economy

According to Fisheries Principal Secretary Japheth Ntiba, the ministry is focusing more on sustainable fishing practices. This includes mapping out areas for fish cages and sensitising communities and investors to ensure that fish stocks are not harvested faster than they can reproduce.

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