Kenya pushes for tuna protection amid transboundary fishing crisis

Fishermen at Mayungu beach in Kilifi North Sub County, Kilifi County prepare their boats to go fishing in the Indian Ocean. [Nehemiah Okwembah, Standard].

Kenya has reaffirmed its commitment to sustainable tuna fisheries management.

Speaking in Mombasa during the official opening of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission Special Session, Blue Economy and Maritime Affairs CS Salim Mvurya said Kenya has been at the forefront in championing the effective management of tuna and tuna-like fisheries.

Mvurya said the session is taking place out of the collaborative effort between the government and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) Secretariat with support from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), among others.

“The membership of this plenary is important as far as the management of fisheries resources in the Indian Ocean is concerned,” the CS said.

He said to ensure effective management of the tuna and tuna-like resources in the Indian Ocean as envisaged in the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA) of 2001, Kenya joined the IOTC on September 29, 2004.

UNFSA was initiated as a response to a fisheries management crisis involving a class of transboundary fishery resources. These fish stocks are found both within the coastal State’s Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) and the adjacent high seas.

Mvurya said although fisheries resources are renewable, too much fishing pressure can result in stock collapse with unprecedented consequences to the population depending on fish for livelihood.

He said in 2016, Kenya brought to the commission a proposal on the interim plan for rebuilding the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stocks, a species that is still overfished and experiencing overfishing despite these measures being put in place.

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, along with other tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, recommended and adopted resolutions to promote the reduction of synthetic marine debris and the use of natural or biodegradable materials for Drifting Fish Aggregating Devices (DFADs).

CS Mvurya said his ministry is mandated to develop national oceans and blue economy strategies and policies.

They include licensing of fishing vessels, protection of aquatic ecosystems, and fisheries research for effective management of the blue economy resources.

Mvurya said the country is progressing with reforms to tap into the potential of the blue economy sector.

“To improve the management of fisheries resources, the government has made major strides towards reforming fisheries laws and regulatory standards,” he said.

Mvurya said the tuna resources in the Indian Ocean play a major role in providing a livelihood for the coastal communities who rely on these resources for food and employment opportunities.

He said these communities have nowhere else to go if the stocks collapse.

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