Kenya fishers protest influx of bigger vessels caused by new port

Published on
November 8, 2019

Small scale fishermen displaced by a USD 5 billion (EUR 4.5 billion) multi-purpose port in Kenya’s town of Lamu are protesting the delayed compensation that they say has plunged them into poverty as they are unable to acquire modern fishing equipment suitable for deep sea fishing. 

The nearly 5,000 small scale fishermen say only large-scale industrial fishing vessels are now operating in the archipelago of Lamu, some of them illegally accessing fishing zones reserved for small-scale fishing with potential to destroy the fish breeding habitats along Kenya’s coastline. 

“We are seeing more bigger fishing vessels accessing areas that have been reserved for the small scale fishers in Lamu county and we fear this will lead to destruction of our fisheries and force the fish to migrate as has happened to other fishing zones along Kenya’s coastline,” said Abubakar Ibrahim, the chairperson of the Lamu Fishers and Dealers Organization.

He told SeafoodSource the small fishers have already presented a protest note to the county government of Lamu against the large fishing vessels’ illegal activities “but we are yet to receive any positive response nor are the activities of the large fishing vessels abating.”

In 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta claimed foreign trawlers enter Kenya’s waters and “return to their countries filled with our fish” and ordered the intercepting of all illegal fishing vessels and suspension of the fishing licenses of all international trawlers operating in the country’s territorial waters, until they complied with the local input requirements.

Meanwhile, Abubakar has blamed the delayed compensation of the fishermen and continued operation of illegal trawlers on the small fishers’ “lack of awareness on their rights and the reluctance by local county government to support us.”

“Most of the small fishers along Kenya’s coastal counties of Lamu, Mombasa and Kilifi are still grappling with high poverty levels and some have no idea about their rights hence perpetrators of illegal fishing activities are taking advantage of them,” he said.

The High Court in Kenya awarded the fishermen USD 17 million (EUR 15.4 million) for being negatively impacted by the construction of the USD 5 billion (EUR 4.5 billion) multi-purpose port located at Manda bat with 32 deep sea berths. The fishers complained to the court the project “will have far reaching consequences on the marine ecosystem of the Lamu region in terms of the destruction of the mangrove forests, discharge of industrial effluents into the environment, and effects of the fish species and marine life.”

The compensation was to enable them acquire modern fishing boats that would enable them access deep sea fishing grounds.

“Currently the fishermen have no fishing equipment to enable fish in the high waters and are risking their lives because after they were displaced from their fishing sites compensation has taken too long yet they must eke out a livelihood from the sea,” said Yunus Ahmed of HAKI Africa, a national human rights organization in Kenya.

The county government of Lamu, has in its current 5-year development plan projected an increase in high quality landing fish by the county’s small scale fishers to 5,6000 tons by end of 2022 from the current 2,500 tons.

Photo courtesy of Lamu County Government

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