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Kilifi County fishermen's livelihood threatened

26 November 2013, 22:08 Bob Ndwiga

Kilifi County - Hundreds of fishermen in Kilifi County have  protested over what they termed as the invasion of local fisheries by fishers from Pemba Island in Tanzania.

The fishermen said that the Indian Ocean waters of Kilifi and Lamu Counties have been invaded by more than 600 foreign fishermen resulting to the collapse of wholesale fish prices in the area.

Three boat captains who talked to the press on behalf of more than 1,000 fishermen at the Malindi Bay beach,  Athman Famau Maboza, Mohammed Ahmed Ngula and Lali Mohammed asked the central and the Kilifi County governments to intervene before the local fishermen are completely driven out of fishing.

The fishermen sought to know what criteria had been used to issue the seasonal foreign fishermen with work permits and further the reason behind their being allowed to use their own vessels imported all the way from Pemba.

Experts in marine environments including the department of fisheries and the Kenya Marine Fisheries Research institute ,the Kenyan fishers said they should investigate whether the methods of fishing used by the foreigners were safe and acceptable.

“We are asking the Central and the Kilifi County governments to intervene and control the invasion of our fisheries by the foreigners or else we shall all be rendered jobless and eventually be driven out work, yet this is the only source of income and livelihood we depend on” said Athman.

The fishermen said the Malindi Bay beach alone had more than 100 young fishermen and all had been pushed out of the Indian Ocean fisheries by the foreigners who use more than 60 local and foreign vessels.

“We are suffering because all the local boats that have now been handed over to the fishermen from Pemba who also arrived to work with their own large boats, the foreigners accept low prices of wholesale fish and that means we have been left without an income” said Lali.

The Malindi fishermen said that out of the 60 boats which sailed into the Indian Ocean everyday, 40 were from Pemba while only 20 were from local investors who had also decided to hand over the vessels to foreign captains and fishermen.

Fishermen from Pemba, the Malindi counterparts said did not like to partner with Kenyan fishermen mainly because they accepted low prices and had few financial responsibilities locally given that the investors catered for their upkeep, said Athman.

A large number of boats packed with large ice containers for the storage of fish have been sailing out from the Malindi Bay beach every morning and evening returning with at least three to four tons of catch.

The large boats from Pemba which there around 30 in number sail out with at least 10 fishermen while the medium and small ones carry between four and two fishermen per trip into the Indian Ocean fisheries which lasts for at least 12 hours, explained Athman.

The group said that the Malindi region which covered Watamu, Mayungu and Ngomeni had at least 400 fishermen while the fishermen from Pemba now stood at about 600 people.

Malindi fish dealers and boat owners, Athman said preferred the foreign fishermen because they sold their fish at prices of between KES 50 and 80 per kilogram of fish while Kenyan demanded KES250 per kilograms of fish supplied to the dealers at wholesale price.

Malindi hosts more than 20 leading wholesale fish dealers  but the key ones include Abdul Malik, Fuad Ali Mohamed, Farid Abdalla Shikelly, Jumaa hamedd, Suleiman Abdalla, Kuswei Mohammed, Yusuf Abdaulrazak and Salim Mpemba-all who have now diverted to use of fishermen from Pemba to supply them with fish.

Much of the fish ends up in Mombasa outlets from where it is exported or sold in Nairobi and other international markets in East Africa while the rest ends up  local outlets at prices ranging from between KES 300 and 350 per kilogram of fish.

Malindi fishermen protested that unlike in the low fishing season which starts in April and ends in July every year when the local fish dealers hand over their boats to the Kenyan fishermen and offer them attractive prices, presently all work was being done by Pemba fishers at badly compromised prices.

“The foreign fishermen start to arrive in Malindi in November and will continue to undertake fishing until end of march when they will depart and hence provide us a poor chance to make some poor income from the industry” said Athman.

The Malindi fishermen admitted that the foreign counterparts were ruthless and hardworking and ended up delivering home huge amounts of catch which caused an oversupply of fish and hence caused wholesale prices to collapse.

However, they said that the oversupply of fish did not reflect in the retail prices enjoyed by ordinary consumers. “How come even when there is an oversupply of fish, Malindi fish dealers continue to sell their fish to ordinary consumers at the same retail market”, said Athman.

The Kenyan fishermen said that on average they would be earning between KES 1000 and 1,500 per day from the work now taken over by foreigners.

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