Kenya: foreign ships have fun in Kenyan waters
Who fishes in Kenyan waters off the coast?
This has been the question in the minds of Kenyan fishermen, as they complain about trawlers and foreign vessels on the country’s coastline, depleting stocks and leaving them depleted.
It was then that it emerged that over the past eight months, the government has been unable to monitor and intercept foreign vessels fishing in its territorial waters in the Indian Ocean, after having failed to pay 16 million shillings in subscription fees for monitoring.
The Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) program was operated by Collecte Localization Satellites (CLS), a French company that has been providing satellite data to Kenya for years.
CLS claims to be a pioneering provider of control and monitoring solutions. It indicates on its website that it is an exclusive supplier of Argos environmental data.
The company works in sustainable fisheries management, environmental surveillance, maritime surveillance, fleet management and energy and mining. It processes the environmental data and positions of 80,000 beacons per month, as well as observations of oceans and inland waters. It also monitors land and sea activities by satellite.
Kenya’s foreign fishing licenses have always been shrouded in secrecy, with the nation’s efforts to examine the number of government-authorized vessels in the fishing zone having been repeatedly thwarted by the fisheries department and senior maritime officials. .
Between May and August 1, 2021, the Nation, via the Global Fish Watch monitoring site, managed to bring together more than 230 fishing vessels in its waters engaged in deep-sea fishing. Most of these vessels are owned by foreigners, with vessels flying the flags of China, Seychelles, Italy, Taiwan and Hong Kong repeatedly appearing on the tracking site, recording over 50,000 hours of fishing in Kenyan waters.
Foreign vessels are allowed to fish in Kenyan waters after acquiring the necessary licenses through the Department of Fisheries.
Maritime PS Nancy Karigithu declined to comment on the number of foreign fishing vessel licenses issued by the fisheries department.
“Fishing licenses are the prerogative of the State Department for Fisheries and the Blue Economy,” Ms. Karigithu said in an email response.
Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) chief executive Robert Njue also declined to answer Nation’s questions.
In 2020, seven Chinese-owned and operated Kenyan-flagged fishing vessels were authorized by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission to fish in the Indian Ocean from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2031.
Among the vessels monitored, the Seamar li was one of two Kenyan-flagged vessels equipped with drifting longline gear and spotted in the Mombasa and Kilifi regions. Other vessels spotted included the Luweiyuanyu388, a Chinese flagged vessel, also fitted with a type of drifting longline that fished in the Kilifi and Watamu.
Other fishing vessels sighted in Kenyan waters included the Hung Sheng 212 flying the flag of Chinese Taipei and the Hsiang Fa 25, which is registered in the Seychelles. The vessels were off the coast of Kwale, jointly undertaking sea fishing during the same period. Seychelles have registered NF Expert Tuna, and Luqingyuangyu115 and Luweiyuanyu, both registered in China, have also been spotted in Kwale.
Angelo Padre, El Grinta, Barracuda 1, Monteray and Paolo Primo, flying the Italian flag, are just a few of the trawlers spotted in the areas of the Tana Kipini river by fishermen. These ships also ventured north to Lamu and Kilifi.
According to the Fisheries Department, Kenya’s marine capture fishery is made up of artisanal, semi-industrial and industrial fisheries, with the artisanal fishing fleet landing around 9,000 million tonnes of fish against a potential of around 154,000 million tonnes. of tuna and other commercial fish.
“Artisanal fishermen have limited fishing technology for semi-industrial and industrial deep-water fisheries, which are currently exploited by foreign industrial fishing vessels,” the fisheries department explains.
It now appears that due to a financial crisis at the Kenya Coast Guard Service (KCGS) Fisheries, Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Center in Mombasa, Kenya cannot monitor its waters in the area. economic exclusive, leaving its resources open to exploitation by foreigners.
“The VMS is not operational due to an (unpaid) subscription of 16 million shillings for maintenance,” revealed the National Assembly’s agriculture committee.
However, the chairman of the committee, Silas Tiren, said he would ensure that money was provided to the center for the crucial surveillance.
Kenya has only one vessel, the MV Doria, used by the Coast Guard to monitor the country’s territory along the Indian Ocean. It was commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta in Mombasa in 2018.
Kenya monitors its waters using the VMS and Doria, as well as with the help of other countries. But with the broken system and lack of funds to operate the MV Doria, the country depends on other countries for oversight.
Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir said lawmakers had been told by fisheries officials at the center that the system had not been operational since November last year.
“Kenya now relies on neighboring countries like Seychelles to relay data on surveillance and control. They said they had not received any funds. The MV Doria is expensive. rely on foreign countries, ”said Nassir, who expressed concern about the issue because his sub-county has many fishermen.
He advised the agencies to work with the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), KMA and other government institutions to monitor Kenyan waters.
Mr Tiren said MPs visited the center to check if the system was monitoring all vessels in Kenyan territorial waters.
“That is why we are concerned that they will face financial challenges, but we have allocated funds. We want all ships to be monitored whether they are authorized or not,” insisted M., Control Center and monitoring.
The committee and fisheries representatives were on a five-day fact-finding mission to the coastal region. Lawmakers have said they will protect farmers and fishermen.
“We are here on surveillance, to look at the gaps and improve the challenges. We have very good laws to manage the fishing industry. We will enforce the regulations,” Tiren said.
“We want to know our surveying capacity in our territory. But our monitoring is disputed. It is very bad. The treasury needs to provide funds to make sure that we are monitoring our waters.”
Committee member Dr John Mutunga (Tigania West) said the committee has learned that the monitoring equipment is out of service due to a lack of regular payments.
“The lab also needs a lot of reagents, which have to be purchased. It’s a serious facility, but it’s not giving the country the service that was intended,” Dr Mutunga said.
And even if the system were down, he said, there is a monitoring mechanism.
“It is through collaborative efforts between different institutions like the Kenya Maritime Authority, which relay information from any strange vessel in our territory,” he said.
Once KMA officials notice a strange vessel in Kenyan territory, they alert various agencies tasked with protecting Kenyan waters.
“Vessels have to declare their intentions. If it is a fishing vessel, they are required to pay license fees and hand over one third of their catch to Kenya,” he said.
Without supervision, the committee warned, Kenya could lose its fish to foreign trawlers.
“But different countries are working together on international surveillance and when ships cross borders they alert Kenya. It helps the country know when there is an invasion of such ships,” he said.
Lawmakers said they did not know the number of vessels licensed to fish in Kenya’s waters.
Kenya has a coastline of 680 kilometers from Vanga to Kwale to Kiunga to Lamu, with a seawater area of 244,800 km², comprising 14,700 km² of territorial water and 230,112 km2 of exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The Fisheries Department says the northern parts of the EEZ are part of the Somali updrafts and rich tuna fishing grounds in the southwest Indian Ocean.
“The potential of territorial waters is estimated at 17,000 tonnes and that of the EEZ at 154,000 tonnes”, he explains.