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Fishing industry bears brunt of pandemic

OPEDS By Jael Mboga | September 9th 2020 at 11:00:00 GMT +0300

A fishmonger carries home chicken feed commonly known as Ochonga at Kichinjio Beach in Kisumu on August 31, 2020. [Collins Oduor, Standard] 

As the coronavirus infection curve in Kenya seems to be flattening, the impact on food and agriculture is still ever-present, especially in the fishing and aquaculture industry.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation has stated that the pandemic has created an unprecedented economic, social, and health crisis.

Other than the nutritional impact, most of the workers in the fishing industry, especially in the developing countries, have no clearly formulated labour policies and are not registered since they operate in the informal labour market. Most of these workers in the informal fish trade are women, in many cases, widows, who will have no relief package.

Working in such conditions worsens the secondary effects of Covid-19, including starvation and poverty.

Other challenges include the difficulty or the fishermen to maintain the recommended physical distance.

The solution would be to have fewer men on board, which would in turn mean longer working hours. Restrictions such as the ongoing curfew make it hard for them to be out in the water or at the beach at any hour that falls outside the stipulated time.

Violating such rules to make ends meet puts them at risk of being arrested or compromising their safety as empty streets are also a haven for criminals.

The crew is now caught in the difficult balance of their safety and economic welfare.

These mobility restrictions have been seen to hurt the transfer of fish to markets. FAO says this will particularly impact women, who are mostly in charge of these activities.

The FAO adds that the small-scale fisheries sector is trying to make ends meet, to continue fishing, and provide locally-caught fresh fish, but it is experiencing great difficulties due to the falling wholesale fish prices and new sanitary requirements and physical distancing measures.

On a larger scale, the fishing industry generally took a hit with the onset of the pandemic, seeing as it is highly dependent on international trade.

This is also because the industry is closely linked to the tourism and hotel sector, which is yet to recover from the effects of the pandemic going by the global shut down to stop Covid-19 spread.

As a result of the decline in demand, and resulting price drops, fishery production in some countries has been brought to a standstill or significantly reduced. 

However, FAO recommends that the government and NGOs work with local farmers and other players in the fishing industry to come up with initiatives that boost the producers as well as consumers.

For instance, in West Africa, small-scale fisheries producers have teamed up to launch an electronic survey on the Covid-19 impact on the small-scale trade.


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