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Fishermen seek to be exempt from curfew hours

By Isaiah Gwengi | March 29th 2020
Fish traders scramble to pay for orders from Erick Ochieng, a fisherman at Dunga Beach in Kisumu. [Kevine Omollo/Standard]

Fishermen in Lake Victoria will be among the hardest hit by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s dusk to dawn curfew that took effect on Friday.

This is because a huge percentage of natural fishing activities take place at night.

According to Kenya Maritime Authority, there are at least 40,000 vessels in the Kenyan waters of the lake, with at least 90 per cent being used in fishing.

A large number of fishermen have protested that their livelihoods hang in the balance as the curfew targeted their peak hours. They are now calling on the president to reconsider the order to save the fishing industry.

Already, the country is facing shortage of fish, following diminished supply of the commodity as China which brings in at least 50 per cent of the country’s demand closed off all exports.

About 70 per cent of the local production come from Lake Victoria, and the fishermen are expressing fears that the country’s fishing industry is facing imminent collapse.

“As fishermen we have been complying with the measures aimed at reducing the spread of the virus,” said Bob Otieno, the Chairman of Dunga Beach Management Unit in Kisumu, adding that each boat carried at most three people therefore the issue about crowding has been addressed. 

The beach produces up to 1.5 tonnes of fish daily.

Raised concern

Yesterday, fishermen from Bondo and Rarieda sub-counties raised concern over the directive, saying that it is likely to hit them hard.

“We have fishing activities that can only be carriedout at night and we’re therefore appealing to the government to reconsider this directive,” said Okoth Odero, a Beach Management Unit (BMU) official.

According to Odero, fishermen should have been allowed to go to the lake between 6pm and 6am.

“We have suffered enormous challenges in the past few months due to the rise of water levels in Lake Victoria and the curfew will render many of us jobless,” he explained.

Mercy Akoth, a fish vendor in Honge Beach, also decried the curfew.

“Some of us have loans and this has been our only source of livelihood. The curfew is not only going to render many of us jobless but it will also affect the economy of this region,” said Akoth.

“We were buying a two-kilogramme tin of omena at Sh100, but it has now shot to Sh170,” said Martha Achieng, a resident of Asembo bay.

Speaking to The Standard, Siaya County Commissioner Michael ole Tialal warned all the fishermen against going to the lake during the curfew. He called on all the fishermen to adhere to the measures put by the government, saying it is for the good of all Kenyans.

“We know that this is affecting everybody, but we must follow the directives as had been issued by the president,” said Tialal.

In Homa Bay, Suba South Sub County Beach Management Units (BMU)chairman William Onditi and Remba BMU chairman Semekiah Mamra said the directive will interfere with fishing.

Onditi appealed to the government to consider bending the directive for fishermen to allow them fish.

[Report by Isaiah Gwengi, Kevine Omollo and James Omoro]

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