Illegal fishing, ocean pollution, climate change, ocean noise and ship strikes are some of the threats to the blue economy that Kenya and other countries are facing.
At the same time, like other African Union States, Kenya has suffered incursions into its territorial waters by foreign fishing companies.
It is under this shade of economic torment that the country has announced it will harmonise its regulations with other Africa Union States to facilitate sustainable exploitation of opportunities in the multi-billion blue economy.
State Agencies in charge of the sector said Kenya should combine efforts with other countries to combat these illegal activities threatening aquatic life.
Kenya has an implementation secretariat chaired by Rtd General Samson Mwathethe domiciled in the president’s office.
The secretariat is supposed to offer direction on the full implementation and exploitation of the blue economy.
Dr Nancy Karigithu, who is the Principal Secretary for Shipping and Maritime, also acts as a Special Envoy for Blue Economy and Maritime Affairs.
Acting Director of the Africa Union Inter Africa Bureau for Animal Resources Nick Nwankpa said Kenya is among countries that are endowed with great maritime resources. Therefore, there is need to harness the resource potential in line with standardised procedure.
“The challenge is lack of harmonisation of laws. Some people use chemicals to fish, while others use trawlers with substandard nets. There is a lot of sea pollution. We need to regulate this,” he said.
He at the same time noted that many resources remain untapped within the African Maritime sphere, adding that controlling and enforcing regulations that restrict multinational organizations from exploiting resources is important.
“We are endowed with great maritime resources in oceans. We need to put regulations in place that are harmonised so that legal enforcement is uniform across the continent,” said Mr Nwankpa.
He spoke in Mombasa on the sidelines of a three-day forum on the blue economy.
“Conserving aquatic biodiversity is key to strengthening institutions that will lead to enhancing governance to these resources, we need to keep best practices so that fishing can be sustainable; there will be no illegal fishing and pollution,” averred Nwankpa.
Aquatic biodiversity expert Joel Mukenye said Kenya is making significant strides in spurring conservation in the blue economy while fighting climate change impact to protect aquatic biodiversity.
“We very well understand that we have the African blue economy strategy, but now we want to ratify a technical committee that will steer the blue economy strategy in Africa,” he said.
“We are at an advanced stage in developing a blue economy strategy and as a country, we are looking at our priorities which are already captured in a template developed by IGAD.”
The committee is seeking to harmonise regulations to ensure the sustainability of blue economy opportunities without necessarily having to destroy aquatic biodiversity that commands significant economic potential.
Meanwhile, all Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) security officers are undergoing paramilitary training to equip them with skills to combat emerging crimes in the maritime sector.
Acting KPA Managing Director John Mwangemi said 250 personnel have been trained in basic paramilitary training in the last four years.
He said another 150 other security workers have also undergone coordinated border security management following the enactment of the security laws amendment act of 2014.
“All major installations including ports, airports are now areas of strict surveillance,” said Mr Mwangemi.
Countries have been required to enhance their security systems while there have been drastic advances in technology.
“Over time, mankind has faced threats with growing insurgency, terrorism, piracy, and crime. We must therefore enhance and continuously upgrade our security systems and adequately train our security personnel to face these challenges,’’ he said.
Mwangemi explained that the key among these is capacity and competency development in human resource.
KPA has so far trained 250 personnel in basic paramilitary training within the last four years.
Another 150 personnel have undergone coordinated border security management following the enactment of the security laws amendment act of 2014.
‘’This has positioned our security component strategically in executing the security functions at the sea border entry with the primary objective of facilitating legitimate trade towards the realisation of Vision 2030,’’ he added.
Mwangemi noted that the current training was designed to improve the supervisory skill set of the security workforce where a deliberate choice was made to undertake the training in one of the most recognised Law enforcement academies in the continent.
‘’We envisage building a security workforce that drives the port business towards realisation of the authorities’ vision and mission,” Mwangemi said.
KPA and KWS have partnered with other law enforcement agencies in establishing joint port control units at the ports of entry.
Mwangemi said KPA will ensure that there is continuous monitoring and evaluation after the training.