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Celebrating World Fisheries Day in Kenya

 

As people around the globe celebrated World Fisheries Day on 21st November, I thought I would take the opportunity to tell you a little more about the importance of fisheries here in Lamu seascape, Kenya.

Fishing is a major economic activity for the local community living in Lamu seascape. It’s estimated that, either directly or indirectly, artisanal fishing supports 70-75% of the population. At least part of the reason for this is its very rich biodiversity. The area’s located at the confluence of two ocean currents and this results in an upwelling which brings lots of nutrients, making for very a rich fishery.

Handline fishing North Kenya Bank © WWF-Kenya Hassan MohamedHandline fishing North Kenya Bank © WWF-Kenya Hassan Mohamed

We’ve been working closely with local communities and the relevant government authorities to improve the sustainability of fisheries management in Lamu seascape both for people and for the environment. But there are some major challenges in achieving this.

The use of illegal and destructive fishing equipment remains a big problem, which is partly attributable to a lack of enforcement, a lack of awareness of suitable fishing gear and also of traditional norms, and the pressure of maintaining catch levels in the face of decreasing fish stocks. Infrastructure development in and around Lamu seascape is also likely to disrupt fisheries both by direct impact on marine habitats and by attracting an influx of new people, which will likely increase fishing pressure in the region.

Devolution is also a challenge when it comes to the management of fisheries. When Kenya adopted its new constitution in 2010, much of the responsibility for managing natural resources moved from the centralised national government to 47 newly established county governments, through the devolution process. Fundamentally, this is seen as a very positive step as it enables those most impacted by decisions to have a voice in natural resource management decisions, but it has also brought about some new challenges. This is very stark when it comes to fishing and fisheries as some functions have been devolved to county level whereas others remain at national level. As you might imagine, coordination between the two levels is tricky, especially when there are capacity gaps.

We’ve been employing a range of methods to try and tackle some of these issues. For example, we’re working with the local community to trial more sustainable fishing methods, including those which target higher value species like lobster, tuna and deep sea red snappers. We’re also supporting the development of market incentives to encourage a move towards sustainability by helping fisherfolk to work towards Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.

Drop line fishing trials © WWF-Kenya Hassan MohamedDrop line fishing trials © WWF-Kenya Hassan Mohamed

In parallel, we’re building the capacity of local communities to better manage fisheries by working closely with community Beach Management Units (BMUs) and other natural resource platforms and we’re influencing policy so that there’s a consistent approach to agreements between government and the community for co-management of marine resource. On top of all that we’re examining ways to improve data collection and monitoring so that fisheries management can be based on the best available information.

Fisheries stakeholders © WWF-Kenya Hassan MohamedFisheries stakeholders © WWF-Kenya Hassan Mohamed

As with most things, there isn’t a quick fix to ensure the sustainability of fisheries in Kenya, but with your generous support we’re committed to helping find solutions that work for people and for the environment over the long term!

WWF’s Coastal Kenya Programme is gratefully supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and Size of Wales.

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