Fishermen in Lamu are counting losses following diminished revenue due to a prohibition of exports to China for their catch.
The loss of revenue for the fishermen in Lamu has led to most deep sea fishermen resorting to selling their catch of mostly tuna, prawns, crabs and lobsters for a pittance in the local market.
“Whereas we’ve been exporting our catch of mostly lobsters, prawns and crabs for Sh4,500 per kilo, we are now forced to sell for as low as Sh700 per kilo in the local market,”Swaleh Omar, a fisherman interviewed by KNA said, adding the closure of borders due to the COVID-19 global outbreak is the reason for the nosediving of their fortunes.
Exports to China have currently been suspended following the national government’s decision to close the country’s borders, for international flights.
Lamu County, and especially Amu Island, Kiunga, and Faza provide a large cache of fish within the coast with the bulk meant for export due to the quality of the catch in the county’s territorial waters.
However, the global pandemic has affected the fish trade in Lamu, with export suppliers holding off travel or making no orders due to the closed border situation and lack of international flights into the country.
Omar added that the global pandemic has adversely affected the fishermen in Lamu, whose economy he said depends largely on fishing.
“We are suffering due to the fact that we have no option but to depend on a local market that does not take too kindly the effort and pricing that we place upon premium fish and ocean produce,” Athman Abdalla , Amu Island’s main prawns wholesaler observed.
He said that the county is likely to suffer adversely due to the dusk to dawn curfew directive that will affect fishing as a trade in Lamu.
“Fishing will definitely suffer because most if not the best catch is made during the night, and although we will have to comply it will also have an impact on the general households’ income of several homes in Lamu,” Abdalla said, adding that the fishing sector employs hundreds both directly and indirectly within the county.
These sentiments were echoed by Abubakar Mohammed, a fisherman who said that unless the national government formulates a way in which they can operate within the directive, the sector is likely to be paralysed due to poor catches being made.
However, Lamu County’s Fishing Department Director Simon Komu, expressed optimism that although the fears of the fishermen are warranted, he noted that the sector is likely to expand after the global pandemic subsides.
“Lamu is about to reap big from the investments that the national and the county government are making in terms of rehabilitation of landing sites, modernised equipment for fishing and the Lamu Port City, which will enable the creation of fishing industries for export within the county,” Komu said.
He added that there were plans by the county government to improve on the provision of the existing storage facilities to enable fishermen store their produce for longer as they wait to export it.
By Amenya Ochieng