The government has laid down elaborate strategies aimed at ensuring the country benefits from its largely unexploited marine Exclusive Economic Zone.
Agriculture CS Peter Munya speaking in Malindi Monday said the government and its development partners would spend at least Sh12 billion to build capacity and improve fishing fleets into the deep sea with a view to ensuring Kenya benefits from is blue economy resources.
While on an inspection tour of various development projects in Kilifi, Mombasa and Kwale Counties, Munya said his ministry was already developing Master Plan for Fisheries and the Blue Economy and coordinating all departments dealing with marine resources to revive the sub sector and add value to marine resources.
“Our ocean is big and our resources immense, but we do not have the capacity to fully exploit them, leaving them to be stolen by foreigners since our fishermen cannot venture into deep sea fishing due to lack of large vessels,” he said.
He said if the resources are properly utilized, the government would improve livelihoods as well as explore markets in countries that had already depleted their resources.
The CS however said theft of marine resources was being countered by the Kenya Coast Guard and the Kenya Navy as well as the coordinating office on the Blue Economy and Fisheries domiciled at the Executive Office of the President.
He said his ministry would take advantage of the Sh12 billion programme to improve facilities in fish landing sites, which include fish markets and cold storage facilities.
Mr. Munya said the government had already reclaimed many fish landing sites and asked the Kilifi County Government, the County Commissioner and Beach Management Units (BMUs) to work together to reclaim the remaining ones.
On capacity building, the CS said the ministry would train 2,000 persons on deep sea fishing annually. Those to be trained will include fishermen, cooks and other essential service providers within large vessels that will venture into the deep seas for days.
“We shall conduct capacity building for fishermen to be able to venture into the deep sea to fish instead of only fishing in the shallow waters,” he said, adding, our target is to ensure that we train at least 2,000 fishermen annually and to improve fishing gear to enable the fishermen to go into the deep sea.
He said the ministry had also developed new regulations requiring foreigners fishing in Kenyan territorial waters to employ locals and that was why the government would in addition to training fishermen also train other essential workers.
“We need the fishermen, cooks, and other professions needed in using big vessels and to enable them to get big boats. We want to do this so that those from outside who have big vessels should not employ workers from outside the country,” he said.
On the destruction of fishing gear by contractor transporting ballast to build the Lamu port, the Cabinet Secretary said the contractor would be required to compensate fishermen for the destruction of their nets and other equipment.
Munya urged fishermen to form groups and cooperatives so they can benefit from government assistance in an organized manner, including accessing affordable credit to improve their fishing gear.
By Emmanuel Masha