Stop foreigners from stealing our fish now

Mary Achola and Pauline Ochola go about their business on October 11, 2022 at Kisumu Municipal market where they sell dried fish commonly known as 'Obambo.' [Collins Oduor, Standard]

There has been a lot of talk in the past few years about the blue economy and its potential to leapfrog our economy.

Indeed, with an Indian Ocean coastline stretching 600km the and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) spanning 142,400 square kilometres, Kenya has immense treasure in the sea.

The country can gain immensely from blue economy activities such as tourism, transport, ports, mining, energy and - of course - fishing.

Particularly, former President Uhuru Kenyatta took this matter with a lot of seriousness and launched a number of actions to aid Kenya's transition to blue economy.

But our dream to reap big from our water bodies will not materialise as long as we allow foreigners to patrol and harvest from EEZ.

The first thing that a government that is keen to harness its blue economy should be to protect it's resources. But as things stand now, Kenya is unable to do that and that is why illegal fishermen from as far as Mauritius, Seychelles, Japan and China are fishing with impunity in our part of the India Ocean.

To make matters worse, some of them sell same fish that they get from our waters in Kenya, raking in huge profits at the expense of our fishermen who have no means of venturing deep into the sea due to their poor fishing equipment.

Besides trawling in the EEZ where our fishermen can't reach with their dhow's, the foreigners are also usually spotted in areas where Kenyans fish.

In 2018, Uhuru said Kenya lost Sh10 billion annually to illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing along the EEZ. Effectively, these foreign fishermen are robbing us of our fish, money and jobs.

Kenya's transition to blue economy will remain a mirage if we do not empower our fishermen by helping them to acquire modern fishing gear and, importantly, if we do not keep foreigners out of our waters. This is the time to act.