Why Kenya exploits only 8pc of marine potential

When a group of foreigners on board a fishing vessel were arrested by the Kenyan Coast Guards within the Indian Ocean. [File, Standard]

The lack of an industrial fish landing port with cold storage, processing, and canning facilities is preventing Kenya from taking advantage of opportunities in the marine sector.

According to Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA), the industry regulator, Kenya exploits just eight percent of the potential of its marine fisheries.

KMA’s acting director for maritime trade and development, Joseph Kapeku, said the country lands 24,580 metric tonnes of marine fisheries annually valued at Sh5 billion.

This is a paltry eight per cent of Kenya’s potential to land about 300,000 metric tonnes of marine fisheries valued at Sh42 billion.

Some 23,000 metric tonnes of marine fishing are by artisanal fishers and 1,580 metric tonnes by industrial EEZ fishers. The marine fishery has created about 300 formal direct jobs and about 13,000 jobs by artisanal fishers.

In a recent presentation at a trade facilitation workshop held in Nairobi, Kapeku observed that potential marine fish stocks can be sustainably harvested and landed annually.

During the meeting, KMA director engineer Martin Munga challenged the business community using the port of Mombasa to consider leveraging Information Communication Technology (ICT) in doing business to maximize profits.

“To be resilient in light of unforeseen circumstances which happen from time to time, I urge you to leverage on all opportunities available to expand your businesses,” Munga said in a speech.

Kapeku said 90 percent of the stocks comprise tuna and tuna-likes such as skipjack, which makes up 60 percent, and yellowfin (30 percent), while 10 percent are bigeye and swordfish, among others located beyond the ten nautical miles of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

“These species are highly migratory between EEZs of various countries and into the international waters,” he noted.

According to Mr Kapeku, 10 percent of the stocks are inshore multi-species within zero to 10 nautical miles.

They are seabream, groupers, crustaceans (shrimps/lobsters), and mollusks like octopuses and squids. “These stocks are largely straddle between various areas in the ocean,” he observed.

Mining, Blue Economy, and Maritime Affairs Cabinet Secretary Mr Salim Mvurya said the plant can process about 1000 metric tonnes of tuna in one segment and create 3000 direct jobs.

The government is constructing the Liwatoni Fish Complex, whose first phase will cost Sh1.49 billion.

However, the plant, which was to start operations in December last year, was delayed by a protracted dispute between the contractor and the government over pay.

At the same time, the government is constructing the Shimoni Fish Port at Sh2.5 billion.

The project, by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), will be completed in September this year. It will be the first dedicated port in the country.

Meanwhile, Kenya is leading four other countries in the struggle to jointly mobilise resources for the extension of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from Naivasha deep into the hinterland to make the project more productive.

It is part of the Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIPs) being undertaken by Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

Last week, officials from the five countries who met in Mombasa County committed to speed up joint mobilisation of funds and kick off construction of the Naivasha-Kisumu-Malaba section in Kenya and the Malaba-Kampala line in Uganda this year.

It was argued that the line would transform the northern corridor from being a merely transport corridor to an economic corridor with production centres that will ensure trains go and come fully loaded in the region with a population of about 300 million people.

The SGR line is expected to ease transportation of goods, end delays experienced with trucks, address the long traffic jams, save roads of damage and reduce road accidents witnessed in all the five countries.

Trucks plying the Mombasa-Malaba-Kampala highway have often been stuck in traffic jams that have lasted several days leading to delays in the delivery of goods along the Northern Corridor.

But while officials from the five countries vowed to pursue the SGR project vigorously, it emerged that Kenya has already been overburdened by debts that would rely more on the private sector to finance the plan.

It also became clear that raising resources jointly has not been easy as officials indicated that the four partner countries have been lagging behind Kenya on the ambitious project.

Last year, Kenya’s Roads and Transport Cabinet Secretary Mr Kipchumba Murkomen and his Ugandan Counterpart General (Rtd) Katumba Wamala, announced plans to raise funds jointly for the extension of the SGR line and committed to start construction by December last year but this failed.

In the meeting held at Sarova Whitesands beach resort in Mombasa county last week, Kenya and Uganda said construction of the SGR line will commence simultaneously before the end of this year.

Mr Murkomen and Uganda’s Minister of State for Works and Transport Mr Fred Byamukama said the two countries are finalising the mobilisation of resources to fund the construction of the Naivasha-Kisumu-Malaba and the Mabala-Kampala section starting this year.