Fishing activities along the shores of the Indian Ocean from Mtwapa in the south to Ngomeni in the north in Kilifi County has been picking up slowly after almost one year when activities were suspended in March 2020 following the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic.
Over 7000 fishermen in the area who have been jobless since then have started going back into the sea with high hopes that they will start earning income and be able to sustain their families by putting food on the table.
For Kilifi County residents, their main source of income after tourism which had also dwindled during the pandemic has been fishing. It brings together the entire fish dwellers with a population of over 30,000 people.
Kilifi Central Beach Management Unit (BMU) chairman Suleiman Shaban said 400 members of the unit were rendered jobless since March 2020 and have had to survive through difficult times and as the situation improves, they have started smiling.
“For the past one month when fishermen started going into deep sea for fishing, fish traders who are mainly women have been receiving reasonable shares of fish along the sea shore. Our fishermen spend nights fishing as this is within the pick season,” he said.
He said those fishermen with good fishing vessels and nets are able to harvest not less than 1,500 kilograms per night and traders get enough fish for frying and selling to their customers from the various beach landing sites.
Hilda Kiti, a fish seller at Mnarani estate narrated how life has been difficult for her during in the past 10- months saying though the situation is now improving, they are yet to get back to their normal life.
“We are now catching up with the previous life of waking up very early in the morning to rush to the seashores and get reasonable catch. Waking up late can lead to loss of the day as other women who are coming into the business come to buy all the fish available,” she said.
Hilda said going to the sea at dawn is sometimes risky as criminals attack and rob them of their money forcing them to move in groups to the sea when going to await the fishermen to arrive from deep sea with the fish.
“Despite its availability, fish is still expensive to purchase from the fishermen though the season is high and we have sometimes to negotiate prices so that we can also make profit. A kilogram of fish retails at between sh. 250 and sh. 300,” she said.
Mwanaisha Juma, a fish seller at Kibaoni said her business has been slowly recovering after the government lifted restrictions in the sector which makes her foresee a bright future.
“We can at least wake up early in the morning and walk to the seashore to get something to sell during the day and earn a small profit. This was not the case after cases of Covid-19 were first reported in March 2020,” she said.
She said she could not risk purchasing imported tuna fish from China in butchers to prepare for sale since most of her customers did not want to consume the imported product.
Kilifi north Sub County fisheries officer Mbaraka Mapapa said at least 12, 000 or more kilograms of fish are netted in Mnarani and Old Ferry Beach Management Units daily but hoped the catch will continue to rise.
by Harrison Yeri/Hamaibe Ipu