Kenya: Why Govt is Seeking to Ban Chinese Fish Imports

Construction of infrastructure in Africa (file photo).

Kenya will soon ban fish imports from China, the National Assembly's Committee on Agriculture has confirmed.

Kenya has enough fish stocks in its lakes, rivers and the ocean, the lawmakers said.

The legislation, said chairperson Silas Tiren (Moiben), will improve the fisheries sector.

"I don't see why we should import from China when we have enough fish in the country. There is a lot of potential in our waters, we must capture it," he said.

"It's clear that foreign countries are fishing from our waters and later selling to us, which shows we have enough fish and potential."

The MPs and fisheries officials were on a fact-finding mission late last month on the plight of fishermen in the Coast region. They said they want to help the country harness the sector's potential and create job and business opportunities.

"We must harness all these efforts. We must fish in our waters and use the stock for home consumption and exports," said committee member John Mutunga (Tigania West).

Adan Haji (Mandera South) said MPs will come up with legislation banning fish imports because Kenya has enough stock.

Maximum benefit

"We have to protect our resources and fishermen, who must get the maximum benefit out of the natural resources we have," he said.

The MPs assured fishermen that they will protect them from exploitation.

"We have enough fish in Kenya. We must protect our fishermen. We shall call upon fisherfolk so that they can give us their ideas about the efficiency and effectiveness of the applications of the Kenya fisheries laws," Dr Mutunga said.

But committee members said they did not know the number of vessels licensed to fish in Kenya's waters.

"There are challenges, but we want to improve the sector. The fisherfolk have also raised concerns and we will conduct public participation to capture all their challenges," Mr Moiben said.

Dr Mutunga said the Kenya Maritime Authority is among institutions charged with inspecting vessels.

"It's a collaborative effort from KMA, the fishing monitoring agency and Kenya Coast Guard Service. Once a vessel is discovered in our waters, the agencies are contacted. The vessels declare their intentions and later are given the conditions of operating within our waters," he said.

Kenya's total annual fish production in 2019 stood at 146,687 metric tonnes (MT), comprising 23,700MT from marine resources, 18,542 from aquaculture and 102,331 from freshwater production.

This is against an estimated potential of 350,000MT annually. Kenya imports fish from China because the government says we have insufficient stock.

Fishing vessels

In February, Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said Kenya's deep waters are being exploited by foreign industrial fishing vessels because local fishermen cannot work in those waters.

Mr Munya said artisanal fishermen have limited fishing technology for semi-industrial and industrial fisheries in deep waters.

Kenya can license up to 70 fishing vessels in its deep sea, he said.

"I support the ban, but we must empower the fisherman to first increase production. A kilogram of tilapia from China is sold at Sh250 while the same fish from Lake Victoria is Sh500," said Wavuvi Association of Kenya chairman Hamidi Omar.

"Our fish is very expensive because we lack the facilities to increase production."

He said Kenya has enough stock in Lake Victoria, the Indian Ocean and aquaculture.

"If we ban Chinese fish imports, our fish will be very expensive. We must empower fishermen by giving them modern boats and fishing gears."

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