Farmer banks on modern fish rearing methods to sustain his ambitious nine-year-old fish project

Okello Otieno at his hatchery in Kisumu County. PHOTO: JECKONIA OTIENO
KISUMU KENYA: Fish stocks at Lake Victoria have been dwindling at an alarming rate because of over fishing. To overcome that hurdle, one farmer is tactfully combining cage fish farming and running a hatchery.

Okello Otieno has several fish cages in Lake Victoria and a fish hatchery along the Busia-Kisumu Road. Otieno says having realised the potential in fish farming, he quit a well-paying job to set up this project and the rewards are evident. Okello has gone beyond producing fingerlings to actually rearing fish in Lake Victoria using cages and selling it to the locals. At the hatchery, he takes charge of all critical aspects of fish rearing. For instance, he determines how many fish become male or female from the fingerlings hatched.

“Males are bigger compared to females because they focus more on eating while the females stop eating once the eggs have been fertilised because they have to carry them in the mouth,” Otieno explains. He achieves the gender determination by feeding the fingerlings on a diet full of testosterone which makes them grow into males. Otieno also gets females to keep his ponds replenished. He says once the eggs are fertilised in the ponds, they are taken away into incubators where they hatch before they are transferred back into the ponds to grow and thrive.

The hatchery can produce between 100,000 and 200,000 fingerlings but Otieno prefers to produce in batches for sustainability.

SEE ALSO :New Bill seeks to limit number of fish cages in lake

“Feeding 200,000 fingerlings is no mean feat so we sequence because as you know, a fish eats one percent of its body weight and one kilo of feeds go for about Sh110,” says Otieno.

Clean the water

The number of eggs being hatched is between 15,000 and 20,000 every two weeks.
After a month, the fingerlings are ready for the market. His market is big ponds owners and small-scale farmers.

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Each fingerling goes for between Sh5 and Sh10 depending on size. Otieno cleans the pond water through biofiltration. Biofiltration is a pollution control technique using a bioreactor containing living material to capture and biologically degrade pollutants.

“We use pumice stones to clean the water of bacteria,” he explains.

Alongside the hatchery, he also successfully manages cages at the expansive lake. About a kilometre and half off the Bao fish landing beach on Lake Victoria he has stationed 26 cages where about ten percent of fish from the hatchery ends up. Each of the cages is three metres deep with each measuring nine square metres. The cages have about 3,000 fish with harvesting done thrice every week. With each harvest, he gets 400 kilogrammes of fish.

“Our harvesting is demand driven. We harvest fish as from 150 grammes to the biggest that we have and prices differ according to the size that is being sold,” says Otieno. From the cage he supplies hospitals, restaurants and individuals with fish.

Otieno is challenging more people to venture into large scale fish farming because the demand is insatiable.

Though he has everything together, he confesses this journey that started nine years ago as a hobby, has had highs and lows.

However, this journey has not gone without challenges. First, producing over 100,000 fingerlings is not easy.

“We also experience power blackouts and have to run a backup generator which adds on to the expenses.

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fish cagesLake Victoria