Musa Radoli and Reuters @PeopleDailyKe
Multi-national corporations and foreign countries scrambling for fish and mineral resources in the Indian Ocean pose a major threat to fishing communities as the continent’s 38 coastal States sharing the waters move to jumpstart their blue economies.
Also piling pressure on these communities — that include Kenyans — living along the ocean’s coastal strip are mushrooming high-end tourist hotels that spew raw sewerage that is wiping away fish stocks heightening fears of food security.
“There is a great risk and a great danger that those communities will be marginalised,” Joseph Zelasney, a fishery officer at UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) told Reuters during the ongoing Blue Economy Conference.
The continent’s fish stocks are also being depleted by illegal trawlers who comb the ocean to feed European and Asian markets, stealing the livelihood of local communities and governments’ revenue from marine resources.
These waters are home to many famous fish varieties including the Bonefish, Permit, Milkfish and Giant Trevally that draw anglers from across the world.
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa says that Africa hosts a blue economy estimated at $1 trillion (Sh100 trillion) but loses $42 billion (Sh4.2 trillion) a year to illegal fishing and logging of mangroves.
To make food security fears worse, seismic waves generated by prospectors to search for minerals, oil and gases along the ocean floor have scared away fish stocks.
“Noise and vibration drives fish away, which means they (fishermen) have to go further to the ocean to fish,” Confederation of African Artisanal Fishing in Gambia official Dawda Saine told Reuters
At the Kenyan coast the critical question of pollution from a vibrant tourism sector have reduced stocks along the Indian Ocean, Salim Mohamed, a fisherman from Malindi in Kenya said.
“We suffer as artisanal fishers but all local regulation just look at us as the polluter and does not go beyond that,” he said.
There is also the critical and thorny land ownership equation with activists saying most of the land and beaches along Africa’s thousands of miles of coastline is untitled, making it a good target for illegal acquisition.
Thus growth of blue economies in Africa could also take away common rights to land and water along the coastline and transfer them to corporations and a few individuals, said Andre Standing, advisor with the Coalition for Fair Fisheries Arrangements.
“There is a great worry that we could see privatisation of areas that were previously open to these communities. We need to have a radical vision that values communities and livelihoods or they will become extinct,” he said.