23 September 2017

Kenya: Why Boats Are Killing Fishers, Passengers in Lake Victoria

Increased boat accidents in Lake Victoria have brought the safety of fishermen and other boat users in the lake into a sharp focus.

Hardly a month passes without a boat capsizing. Some incidents are minor, others are fatal.


On Wednesday, three fishermen died in a boat tragedy after heavy winds swayed and then overturned the vessel.

The incident happened around Uwii Beach in Suba North in Homa Bay County.

Police identified the three as Ibrahim Okal, Raymond Otieno and Tobias Ouma.

Their bodies were retrieved the following day and taken to mortuary.

In March this year, five people drowned when their boat overturned in the lake in Budalang'i Constituency.


Seventeen other passengers, who were aboard the ill-fated vessel, were rescued by fishermen.

And in June last year, a boat ferrying 17 artistes of the Boyieta Wuod Awasi music group from Lihunda beach in Bondo sunk en route to the Ndenda Island in Siaya County.

Eight members of the team were rescued in the 9am accident in Central Sakwa Ward in Nyangoma Division.

The team was expected to perform at a concert in Ndenda Island in Lake Victoria.

The rising incidents have been blamed on erratic weather, overloaded boats and lack of safety equipment.

"The county government and the Kenya Maritime Authority should honour its promise of life jackets and speedboats to help us reduce the number of such incidences in the lake," Mr Edward Orem, the Lake Victoria Beach Management Network chairman, told the Nation.


"We are still waiting for the 20,000 lifesaving jackets and two speedboats promised to us by the county government of Homa Bay."

Faced with decreasing fish stocks in the second largest fresh water lake in the world, countries sharing the Lake have moved to institute stringent measures to control fishing in the shared water body.

In June, the EAC for example, launched the Lake Victoria Fisheries Management Plan III (FMP III) 2016-2020 in Arusha, meant to help the precious Nile Perch breed recover from dwindling numbers, as well as sustain the resources in the Lake.

Uganda, which owns 45 per cent of the lake, deployed the military to watch over any illegal fishing.

Last year, Kenya enacted the Fisheries Management Development Act, which allow the country to deploy security forces against illegal fishing in its waters, as well as establish conservation plans.

Fishermen though say the stringent measures have also become their worst nightmare.


They says they have to move away from the identified breeding zones and deep into the Lake yet they have poor safety equipment.

According to Joseph Olando, a beach manager of Uwii Beach of Lake Victoria, fishermen lack modern fishing tools such as speed boats and modern fishing gear.

"Using of traditional boats and old fishing gears has also contributed to accidents in the lake," said Mr Olando.

He said the county government of Homa Bay had promised fishermen in the lake about 20,000 lifesaving jackets and two speedboats, a promise that that remains unfulfilled.

County Executive for Agriculture Fisheries Eliud Otieno said the fishermen shall receive the jackets this month.

"The lifesaving jackets makes fishermen perform their duties without any worries," said Mr Otieno.


He explained that the county government was committed to ensuring that safety measures are adhered to by fishermen to avoid deaths.

Mr Oremo urged the county governments bordering lake Victoria such as Homa Bay, Kisumu, Siaya, Migori and Busia to work together in promoting the welfare of fishermen.

"Governors in the counties bordering Lake Victoria should work together to promote the welfare of fishermen in the lake," urged Mr Oremo.

Suba North police chief Wilson Nanga attributed the accidents to strong winds and lack of lifesaving jackets.

"The accidents are usually caused by unexpected strong winds and lack of life saving jackets among the fishermen," said Mr Nanga.


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