BWIRE: Migingo row a product of Kenya’s fishing sector neglect

BWIRE: Migingo row a product of Kenya’s fishing sector neglect

The perennial tensions between Kenya and Uganda over the Migingo Island have nothing to do with a boundary dispute, but neglect of the fishing sector and bad individual behavior by persons involved.

While Uganda has been more determined in ensuring that the small-scale fisheries sector is protected and positioned to play a critical role in strengthening the socio-economic lives of her people, little care and thought has been spared on what happens to the fishing industry in Kenya.

Even after passing the Fisheries Management Act 2016 and subsequent announcement of the Government of her commitment to the responsible exploitation of the blue economy-marine resources, not enough has been made in Kenya to protect and promote responsible use of the water resources.

Kenya should ensure that it strengthens the control and surveillance efforts should be along her water borders and rules applied for sanctioning people engaging in poor fishing methods and piracy as a security measure to minimise tensions with her neighbours.

The missing link in the issue is that the authorities from the two countries have not worked on trusted ways of sharing intelligence information on piracy and bad fishing methods, misuse of the resources around the lake- and arresting of the culprits to face the law more than, treating this as a diplomatic row that requires boundary review.

Most of the Islands in Lake Victoria are havens for criminals and in countries like Uganda that place a high premium on national security, random inspections and crime bursting on the Island, which many times get Kenyans unprepared will continue.

Kenyans on the Islands must accept to share information on the criminals, and authorities in Kenya should stop protecting them.

Fisheries management is primarily about mediating the interaction between people and resources. Combining approaches based on sustainable livelihoods and those relating to rights over natural resource access and management proves a useful vehicle for positive change in collaboratively improving the situation of indigenous peoples.

The rights to fisheries are fundamental not only as a key tool in fisheries management and conservation, but also as an integral ingredient in the pursuit of secure livelihoods on the part of indigenous peoples. An appropriate governance framework to guide fisheries management requires a policy that addresses effectively many, often competing, objectives.

Uganda has beefed up security patrols within Lake Victoria, to protect their fishermen against pirates largely from Kenya who not only harass but steal from Ugandan traders as well as heavily invested in improving fishing methods that save the environment and fish stocks for the future.

Impunity and corruption from Kenyan authorities and fishermen/traders has seen Kenyans involve themselves in aggressive behavior that many times leave them on the receiving end.

Fishermen from Kenya engage in fishing of undersize fingerlings, outside the allowed fishing period, which Uganda and Tanzania highly regulate (this is a problem even in Lake Naivasha, along the Indian Ocean and Lake Turkana), and it’s become routine for pirates largely from Kenya to attack and steal fishing gear, money and property in the lake, and run to Kenya, where they are protected by individuals in authorities.

Many times lost property is traced to Kenya, and the leadership of the Beach Management Units and security protect the known thieves.

In countries like Kenya, the fisheries sector has been faced with several challenges including a weak policy framework, limited access to markets, low productivity (yields) and outputs (quantities), weak institutional capacity, weak monitoring and evaluation and lack of use of informational technology, which have limited the sectors contribution to food security and wealth creation.

This has seen regions with vast natural fish production such as Western and Nyanza, Turkana and Coast Province recorded as some of the least developed areas while regions traditionally not associated with fish, aggressively turning to fish pond and now the main sources of the commodity in Kenya.

Many fish processing plants relocated from Western Kenya to Jinja and Kampala in Uganda, while of the several fish landing beaches along Lake Victoria including Migori, Mbita, Asembo Bay, Usenge, Osieko, Port Victora, Sio Port, Bukoma have stagnated while small beach towns in Uganda along the lake are flourishing.

Kenya is a signatory to the Pan-African Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy Framework and the Reform Strategy (PAFPF&RS) developed by NEPAD Agency, Africa Union Commission, with the support of development partners and must be serious with responsible use of the water/marine resources.

The extensive policy which deals with a wide range of issues in the sector including training, knowledge management, value addition, marketing processing, fish poaching, among others is guides AU Member States when developing national and regional fisheries and aquaculture development plans in accordance with the sustainability, productivity and profitability outcomes.

Victor Bwire works at the Media Council of Kenya as deputy CEO & Programmes Manager