The government plans to set up a national standing committee on cage fish farming to help strengthen the blue economy sector and cushion farmers against losses.
This follows a recommendation by a 17-member task force established by Mining and Blue Economy Cabinet Secretary (CS) Salim Mvurya in November last year to investigate the cause of massive fish deaths in Lake Victoria.
The committee to be domiciled at the State Department of Blue Economy and Fisheries will comprise state and non-state actors and will carry out research on effective management of aquaculture and cage fish farming.
The task force chaired by Fisheries Principal Secretary (PS) Betsy Njagi identified upwelling as the cause of the fish kills in the lake where 135 farmers lost stocks worth Sh. 927, 969,000 million in a span of four months.
“Spotted upwelling with low oxygen levels can occur anytime and at any place in the lake hence the need to observe best management practices such as stocking density of fish and location of the cages,” read the report in part.
Among the biggest losers are Kentila farms in Kisumu County which lost fish worth Sh. 200,400,000 and Lake Aqua limited which lost Sh. 138, 000, 000.
Individual farmers at Ogal beach in Kisumu county and other beaches in Homa Bay county also lost stocks worth tens of millions of shillings.
Out of the ten beaches reported to have recorded fish kills, Ogal beach in Kisumu county had the highest number of farmers who were affected with 84.67% of their produce lost.
The landing beaches with the least number of farmers affected were Asat, Kobudho and Nyamarwaka which reported the lowest proportion of value lost at 0.02%, 0.01% and 0.08% respectively.
According to the task force report, out of the 747 cages affected in the two counties only 14 were licensed.
The mushrooming of cages within the lake without following due procedure was also to blame for fish kills, according to the task force report.
As a result, the task force has recommended the publication of cage culture guidelines and regulations by December 2023 to tame mushrooming of cages in the lake.
This shall come along with the mapping of existing cages to ensure that the right parameters and specifications are followed to avert loss of stocks.
Another recommendation in the report is the dredging of Mbita Causeway in Homa Bay to enhance free flow of water to boost oxygen levels within the lake.
By Chris Mahandara