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Protect fish sector against competition

By The Standard | July 5th 2016

Supermarket shelves are adorned with eggs from South Africa, grapes from South Africa, oranges from Egypt and now fish from, of all places, China is finding its way onto our dinner plates. And that is the reality of a liberalised market.

Lake Victoria has been the largest source of fish locally but the supply has been going down steadily over the years due to over-fishing and wrong methods of fishing that introduce toxins in the water in a bid to make fishing easy. This has had the negative effect of making fish retreat further into the deep lake where fishing becomes dicey business.

Whereas the lake provided 143,908 tonnes of fish in 2006, the tonnage shrank to 111,369 and 108,934 in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Communities living along the Kenyan lakes rely on fishing as their main economic activity, that does not only provide employment and puts food on the table; it has taken children to school, thus increasing literacy levels.

Even with a liberalised market, it necessary for the Government to protect local fish farmers and these communities that stand to lose out in any competition with large Chinese fish imports. There must be legislation that cushions fishermen and women against fluctuations in the market, which have the potential of stopping them from realising their economic goals.

Fish imports should be regulated in a bid to protect the local industry that employs thousands of locals who would otherwise lose their only source of livelihood. In Africa, the fisheries sector alone employs 12.3 million people according to the World Bank.

One way of controlling the local dwindling fish supply is to regulate the activity by say, introducing fishing seasons to ensure breeding continues without the danger of extinction of particular species. While fish imports would be good in the short term to deal with shortages, ultimately the imports will kill the local industry. 

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