Uproar over flooding of fish from Lake Turkana

Traders purchasing fish from a lorry at Pier Market, Homa Bay County. [James Omoro, Standard]

Fish from Lake Turkana has flooded markets on the shores of Lake Victoria, resulting in a huge drop in prices.

There is fear the fishing community depending on Lake Victoria might be rendered jobless as local traders source for fish from Turkana.

Fishermen in Lake Victoria have raised concern over the losses caused by the influx of fish.

The Standard visited Pier Market at the shores of Lake Victoria in Homa Bay town and met Elizabeth Odhiambo selling tilapia.

She is worried about competition in the price of the two fish varieties in the market. There is tilapia from Lake Victoria and tilapia from Lake Turkana, which is cheaper.

Odhiambo, who sells tilapia from Lake Victoria, says her sales have gone down.

Ordinarily, by 11.30am she would have sold three-quarters of her fish. But by midday yesterday she had not sold a quarter of her fish.

Odhiambo sells Lake Victoria tilapia at Sh300 while the same from Lake Turkana is sold at Sh90.

“The tilapia from Turkana is sold so cheaply. They sell three tilapias at Sh220. But the price of one tilapia of the same size from Lake Victoria is sold at Sh300,” Odhiambo added.

Pier Market chairperson Rose Langa (right) and a fish trader, Elizabeth Odhiambo, sampling fish. February 2, 2022. [James Omoro, Standard]

The traders’ chairperson at Pier Market, Rose Langa, said the tilapia from Lake Turkana is a threat to their survival in the market.

Langa who also sells fish says in some instances, the traders sell their fish at throwaway prices before it goes bad. “The fish from Lake Turkana makes us sell our fish below the buying price when we realise our fish will start rotting,” she said.

The tilapia is transported in lorries carrying as much as five tonnes of fish from Lake Turkana.

An average of six lorries or four small vehicles with tilapia from Turkana arrive at Pier Market daily.

Trader Erick Omondi said Lake Turkana fish is dominating the market due to the decline in fish production in Lake Victoria.

“The fish from Lake Turkana hurts our business but it is also addressing the shortage of fish in Lake Victoria,” he said.

Resident Dalafin Ogweno said the situation makes it hard for him to pay workers who fish using his boats. “There is a serious decline in the purchase of fish sourced from Lake Victoria,” he said.

Ogweno added: “Lake Victoria is the main source of livelihood for many people in this county. We pay school fees and undertake other projects using funds generated from this lake.

“But fishing in Lake Victoria is likely to collapse the same way the cotton sector did.”