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Kenyan fishermen embrace ponds as fish dwindles in lake

02 March 2015, 09:21

Kisumu - Sangorota beach along the shores of Lake Victoria is no longer bustling with activity as has been the norm for many years.

The fishermen who used to flock the beach with boats and other fishing gear in search of the delicacy have deserted the trade as fish stock dwindles in the lake, which Kenya shares with neighboring countries Tanzania and Uganda.

"There is no value in going to fish in the lake anymore. Until recently, I would go there early in the morning and after four or five hours, I go back home with only 5kg of fish," Maurice Ouma, a fisherman told Xinhua on Sunday.

As fish stock dwindles in Lake Victoria due to over fishing, climate change and pollution, Ouma and his fellows have deserted the lake and switched to an alternative source of fish and livelihood -- the fishpond.

"Keeping fish in ponds is better because you can get guaranteed harvest," said Jacob Onyango, a fisherman who has embraced the business. "We used to hire boats and other fishing gear, and end up getting little fish."

Onyango started keeping fish in ponds over a year ago and the returns are good. "I invested about 150 dollars in the business by digging three ponds and buying fingerlings from other farmers in the region at 0.05 dollars each. Each of my ponds carries a maximum of 500 fingerlings," said Onyango, who rears catfish and tilapia.

Also read: Commercial fish farming boosts Kenyan farmers

At first, Onyango found fish farming in ponds a difficult business as he was used to getting fish daily and, thus, money.

The catfish and tilapia mature in eight months. On a monthly basis, Omollo spends 22 dollars on fish feeds. He feeds the fish mainly with fish mash.

"I get between 549 dollars and 637 dollars in about two months by selling fish to traders. I have increased my ponds to seven now and each holds fish at different stages of maturity, ensuring that I harvest almost every month."

Onyango and Ouma admitted that pond fish farming is far much better than going to the lake where anglers scramble for immature fish and walk home empty handed.

Jonam Etyang, Kisumu County director of fisheries, says they are encouraging rearing fish in ponds to enable fishermen in the region have a source of livelihood. Etyang blamed the use of sub- standard gear and chemicals in Lake Victoria as the major cause of the dwindling stocks.

The Ministry of Fisheries has put in place are banning illegal fishing gears inside Lake Victoria.

Etyang said fishery officers should work with the Beach Management Units to ensure that those fishermen using substandard gears to harvest immature fish are arrested and their gears confiscated and burnt.

"But the solution lies in people embracing ponds. It is evident that we cannot get enough fish from the lake," he said.

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- Xinhua

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