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Lake Victoria fisherfolk cry foul as imports ‘eat’ their share

Fishermen and fish traders in Nyanza have called for concerted efforts to boost local fish production in bid to reduce importation. They said there is need to generate more fish locally to satisfy the rising domestic demand,adding that through proper management of water bodies, the country can produce enough stock to meet the demand.

“We need more investment in the fishing industry if we are to increase our local fish production,” they said. At the same time, they appealed to the government to tighten fish importation regulation. Homa Bay County Beach Management Unit (BMU) chairman Edward Oremo, said unchecked importation of fish from China has become a big threat to the livelihoods  of people involved in fishing on Lake Victoria.

Oremo said local fishermen have suffered due to widespread infiltration of the imported fish into the domestic market. He said many have been rendered jobless as a result of uncontrolled fish importation.

He said fish captured from the lake is facing stiff competition from the imports which have flooded the local market, adding that they are already incurring huge losses from high production costs.

“We feel the importation of fish should be regulated to protect the livelihood of local fishing community which is at stake,” said Oremo.

Stringent policies

He also asked for introduction of stringent policies on management of marine resources to increase the local fish catch. Oremo said improper fishing practices such as use of wrong gears, over-fishing and encroachment of water resources are to blame for the declining fish stock in Lake Victoria.

Susan Omwa, a fish trader in Kisumu town, said the influx of imported fish has spoilt the demand for the lake catch because it is considerably cheap.

She said imported tilapia fish market price ranges from Sh150 to Sh300 while similar fish from the lake goes for between Sh400 and Sh500 per piece.“We would want the fish catch from the lake increased to meet the huge local market demand,” she said.

Another trader, Jane Achieng said because of the reducing demand for imported fish in the local market, there is dire need to upscale the country’s fish stock. “Ninety per cent of customers are now rejecting imported fish on grounds that it is of poor quality and lacks nutritional value,”she  said.

A recent research by Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute  shows that Lake Victoria’s fish stocks on the Kenyan side have dropped from 5,000 tonnes to 2,500 tonnes annually due to over-fishing, illegal fishing gear, pollution and water hyacinth menace.

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