LAMU – Fishermen working on Kenya’s Lamu Archipelago have expressed their concern over dwindling fish stocks they claim have taken a hit due to the construction of a port.
According to Lamu’s Fisheries and Livestock Ministry, 75 percent of its community depends directly or indirectly on fishing.
“Water is very dirty because they (construction workers) are dredging the channel and it’s affecting our fishing – especially calamari, they like clean water,” 48-year-old fishermen Abdulaziz Omar told epa.
The fishing industry in the region off the northern coast of Kenya is under threat by inshore over-fishing, while the natural habitat is being degraded because of corroding corals and damaged breeding grounds, which local fishermen have attributed to the construction of Lamu Port by a Chinese firm, among others.
“I don’t blame the Chinese, they are just the contractor. If they don’t do it, someone else will do it,” said Omar, adding he did not blame the government either, as the port was something that could help future generations.
Many young people were not going into fishing, but were taking up jobs in other sectors, such as driving motorbike taxis known as boda boda, according to Omar, a father of four.
Others have left town and moved further afield to find work opportunities, including as far away as countries in the Middle East.
“They are suffering,” Omar said.
In a bid to tap into Lamu’s full potential, the regional government has urged fishermen to embrace larger-scale fishing, such as offshore deep-water fishing, as opposed to inshore fishing that can only satisfy their subsistence.
But the lack of modern techniques and technology is preventing impoverished fishermen from moving towards commercial fishing.
A 2015 report by the World Wide Fund For Nature said the world’s marine life population declined 49 percent between 1970-2012.
It also said commercial fish stocks – including tuna, bonito, mackerel – dropped nearly 75 percent, while warning that bluefin tuna was on the brink of extinction.
And IRIN, which was formerly a United Nations humanitarian news agency, warned in 2016 that ocean fish stocks across the globe were “on the verge of collapse” due to the effects of climate change and over-fishing.