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Giving fisherfolk training for sustaining in Lamu


Fish stocks in Lamu seascape are the most abundant and robust for coral reefs in Kenya. Located at the southern end of the Somali upwelling, the nutrient rich waters of Lamu seascape provide the optimal conditions for Kenya’s best stocks of pelagic (open ocean), demersal (near or at the bottom of a body of water) and reef fish, as well as crustacean and mangroves. But this eco-system is under threat…

Fishnet, Lamu, Kenya © Mike OlendoFishnet, Lamu, Kenya © Mike Olendo

Approximately 70% of households in Lamu seascape depend on fishing as a source of protein and income. The main species being fished are snappers, sweetlips, sturgeon fish, parrot fish and rabbit fish, whilst lobster fishing – there are five species of lobster in the Lamu seascape – is the most lucrative. Tuna isn’t exploited extensively in this region, but it has the economic potential to transform fisheries in Lamu, if not the whole Kenyan coast.

However, the decline of fisheries elsewhere along the Kenyan coast has meant that pressure on fisheries in the Lamu seascape is increasing both from local and migrant fisherfolk. Furthermore, destructive and unsustainable fishing gear is being used to carry out this fishing, which is taking its toll on the fish stocks.

Fisherman in Lamu ©Rita TheronFisherman in Lamu ©Rita Theron

Beach seine nets are a good example of the negative impact that inappropriate fishing gear can have. A seine is a fishing net that hangs vertically in the water with its bottom edge held down by weights and its top edge buoyed by floats. Seine nets cause indiscriminate destruction in the ecosystems in which they are deployed and reduce ecosystem integrity. This includes the destruction of coral reefs which, in addition to being important and rare species themselves, are essential breeding and feeding grounds for many other species. Seine nets also result in a high catch rate for juvenile species which impacts species’ recovery rates.

Our work is focused on enhancing the sustainability of fishing in Lamu seascape whilst ensuring that benefits to the local community are maximised. We’re supporting the piloting of alternative, more sustainable, fishing gear such as ‘drop line’ and ‘pole and line’ – these are techniques that are practiced in the Maldives and we’re learning from their experiences. We’re also supporting efforts to obtain certification for the lobster fishery in Lamu – this certification will be based on sustainable exploitation (great for the lobsters!) and ultimately, we hope, result in an increased market value for the products (great for the community!).

Man making fishing net ©Mike OlendoMan making fishing net ©Mike Olendo

We’re also enhancing benefits to artisanal fishers by strengthening market linkages – so that fisherfolk have better bargaining power – and by supporting the use of species, like tuna, that haven’t typically been exploited in this region. At the same time we are strengthening co-management of fisheries through facilitating training and workshops and building capacity of the community-led Beach Management Units. By doing this, we are enhancing the communities’ ownership of this resource, which gives them greater incentives to use it more sustainably.

We are grateful to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for supporting our conservation and community work in Lamu.

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