KENYA – Kenyan scientists have embarked on a research expedition that seeks to generate information and data on the coastal fisheries in a bid to promote sustainable utilisation of its fisheries.

According to a report by Business Daily, the information will help in sealing the gap present on the lack of adequate data on the resources and potential of the countries fishing grounds that hampers efficient policy making.

The research will be pioneered by the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Institute (KMFRI) in partnership with the Belgium government through a modern research vessel ‘RV Mtafiti’ that will gather the much needed data on fish density and their locations.

According to Dr Joseph Kamau, Assistant Director Oceanography and Hydrography at KMFRI, the research institution has plans of deploying a number of sophisticated marine research equipment for the exercise.

Dr Kamau said the vessel presents a unique platform of opportunity to explore marine diversity including marine mammals, sea turtles and sea birds, and provide information and new insights into the offshore distribution of fish stocks.

“The equipment is able to identify the specific commercial fishery (e.g tuna fishery) and quantify the stocks.

The obtained information is synthesised and an economic value placed on the fishery, and the State Department of Fisheries is thereby properly guided on licensing of fishers, and consequently charge fees commensurate to fish stock in a given location, which avoids undercutting.

Such information may also help to identify the areas where interactions with fishing activities are likely to occur,” said the researcher,” he said.

The participating scientists are upbeat that research findings which will be packaged in policy briefs and provide data will enable the government invest more in the fisheries sector.

This comes at a time when the Kenyan government has unveiled plans of revamping the sector in a bid to shore up revenue generated from fisheries, expected to spur economic growth for the local communities.

In January this year, President Kenyatta launched a new frontier in advancing the country’s agenda towards harnessing the blue economy that seeks to improve marine security including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by foreign trawlers.

“Sustainable exploitation of blue resources is the main focus of the blue economy initiative aimed at raising the marine fisheries worth from the current US$25.93 million to over US$1 billion,” said President Kenyatta.

According to preliminary highlights from the RV Mtafiti findings, Kenyan territorial waters have a fish biomass of about 200,000 tonnes worth about US$150 million at 20% exploitation, while the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) waters have a fish stock of about two million tonnes, worth about US$1 billion at 20% exploitation.