Anxiety is rising among Lamu leaders and residents over the prospect that the county could lose a large chunk of its traditional fishing grounds in the Kenya-Somalia maritime border dispute.
Addressing the press, local leaders said the county was likely to suffer if Kenya loses its fishing sections in the dispute.
Deputy Governor Abdulhakim Aboud Bwana said: “Fishing is the mainstay of Lamu’s economy, and we cannot underscore the value that our traditional fishing grounds hold for the county’s blue economy prospects.”
County Fisheries department has projected that Lamu’s blue economy has the potential to deliver 40,000 tonnes of fish annually against the current 2,700 tonnes.
“If Kenya, and in particular Lamu, loses the maritime waters it holds to Somalia; we could be losing as much as Sh7.5 billion worth of income annually,” Fisheries Chief Officer Simon Komu said.
Fishermen, who are aware of the ongoing territorial dispute, are equally troubled having lost the rich Kililana fishing grounds now being transformed into Lamu Port. Construction of the port has disrupted fishing in the area.
“If we lose Kiunga fishing grounds because of the dispute many of us will be forced to abandon fishing altogether, because we might end up being subjected to the cruelties that our brothers in Migingo are enduring at the hands of Ugandan officers because of maritime disputes,” Lamu Fishermen Association chairman Somo Bin Somo said.
He said fishermen face tough times ahead following a ban on night fishing. In addition, a High Court ruling that awarded area fishermen Sh1.64 billion in compensation for Lamu Port construction is yet to be implemented.
Lamu Chamber of Commerce chairman Feisal Mirji said: “Unless the maritime dispute is resolved promptly, the port project might become a white elephant because ships seeking to enter the country’s waters will have limited or narrow access.”
However, Lapsset official Benson Thuita is optimistic that the maritime tussle will not affect the country’s trans-shipment prospects through the port. – KNA