There is nothing wrong with Chinese Fish in Kisumu
By Linus Origa
| August 5th 2016
Not long ago Kenyans were told that the fish they have been consuming for a while, especially those who have consumed fish in Kisumu, might not have necessarily originated from Lake Victoria. ‘Chinese Fish Floods Kisumu Markets’ was the title the Standard, on its online version dated Monday July 4, 2016 gave the story when it was first featured. The title was most likely picked to illicit emotions, because it did. True to our diversity as a nation, different reactions followed.
There was an outcry, both from seasoned and aspiring politicians from Kisumu County terming it economic sabotage. Some saw the hands of the Jubilee government in wanting to kill the economic lifeline of the people from the lake region. A few daring individuals on social media took the debate a notch higher; they questioned the safety of such fish for human consumption, the simple reason being that the fish comes from China. For those who can recall the term ‘China’ has been a street language in Kenya for a while, denoting anything that we feel is not a genuine product. Then of course there are those who felt there is nothing wrong with Chinese Fish in Kisumu.
Lake Victoria is the second largest freshwater lake in the world. So it would be expected of Kenyans to react to the fact that despite the presence of Lake, we are importing fish from as far place as China. However, it is the kind of reactions that we Kenyans are fond of giving that sometimes are confusing. We prefer to get emotional even for circumstances that require factual reasoning.
There are certain issues that should not be strange to Kenyans, keen Kenyans. Reports have indicated that fish stocks, especially those of commercial value, have been diminishing from the lake. In fact, there are certain species that are reported to have completely disappeared; and they are not very few. Marine scientists who have carried extensive research on the lake, together with the locals who have depended on Lake Victoria for their livelihood will know this fact very well. Some of the local fishermen, traders and even politicians from around the lake regions can list some of those fish species which have disappeared or which are disappearing by their local names.
There are a number of reasons blamed for the disappearing act of such documented fish species. Top on the list are the anthropogenic activities around the lake, and long-term effects of climate. However, typical of our character as Kenyans and by extension as human beings to shift blames of our failures to the next-door neighbors, you will most likely hear more blame going to climate change than on the human activities. And so no matter who or what is blamed, the fact remains that lake Victoria does not have as much fish as it used to have many years ago, and the amount that is currently available from the waters cannot satisfy the demands. That is why we were further informed “that fish processing companies in Kisumu have scaled down their operations due to lack of fish from Lake Victoria and are instead importing the commodity from China”. Meaning China, or anybody else who produces more fish than they consume, can bring the surplus to sell to us.
When the Kisumu County Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Executive officer refused to close down the fish importing firm, East African Seafood Ltd, because, as he said, they have broken no law, he was by extension giving another accurate verdict: for as long as free trade exist in the world, there is nothing wrong with Chinese fish in Kisumu provided such fish is proved fit for human consumption.
That is standard practice, and do not qualify for sabotage. We do the same with other products. The Kenyan government has in the past allowed for the importation of sugar, maize whenever there is a national deficit of such products. When we export tea, coffee, beef, horticultural products et cetera to any destination outside Kenya our intention is not to flood those respective markets with our products. On the contrary, it is because whatever those countries produce cannot satisfy the demands, so we take our products and sell to them to help meet that demand.
The writer is an Environmental and Natural Resources Management Consultant at E-Cue Associates Ltd
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