Cage fish farming roils the waters of regional lake

A man who is a staff at Rio Fish Limited feeds fish in a floating fish cage in Lake Victoria on January 7, 2021.[Caleb Kingwara,standard]

While cage fish farming in Lake Victoria has been credited with boosting the country’s fish stocks, it is proving a source of major conflict among stakeholders in the fish industry.

The latest figures show that Kenya produces only 200,000 tonnes of fish against a demand of almost one million tonnes.

Thus the growing trend of cage fish farming is seen as key in bridging this supply deficit. According to the Kenya Fisheries Service Assistant Director Christine Etiegni, there are 5,300 fish cages on the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria.  

The cages are installed in Busia, Siaya, Kisumu, Homa Bay and Migori counties, which share Lake Victoria.

The popularity of the cages has sparked a scramble for space between conventional fishermen and new investors, causing conflict.

This is, especially prevalent in Suba Sub-county where the farming takes place on a large scale.

According to the Chairman of the Suba Sub-county Beach Management Units William Onditi, the bad blood between the two groups is due to a lack of proper regulation governing the new trade. 

“It is very unfortunate that cage fish farmers just need a letter from the National Government and start installing their cages in the lake without consulting fishermen through their leaders,” said Onditi.

This means investors sometimes unknowingly encroach local fishermen’s fishing grounds, causing hostility.

Homa Bay Agriculture and Fisheries executive Aguko Juma also admitted that there is laxity in the regulation of cage fish farming.

Mr Juma accused the fisheries department of ignoring public participation before giving cage fish farmers operating licences.

He also claimed that the new form of fish farming poses a threat to some fish species through over-fishing.

But Homa Bay County Fisheries Director George Okoth dismissed the claim.

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