KENYA – The fishing industry in Kenya recorded a 4.5% increase in earnings to US$240m (Kshs 24 billion) in the previous year supported by increase in volumes.

According to a recent report released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the value of fish caught grew during the period despite increasing concerns due to fish imports from China.

Up from a total value of US$229.5 million (Sh22.95bn) in 2017, the value of fish from fresh water sources, which accounted for 81.0 per cent of the total value rose from US$186 million (Sh18.6bn) in 2017 to US$194 million (Sh19.4bn) in the year under review.

“Total fish output increased from 135,100 tonnes in 2017 to 148,300 tonnes in 2018,” the KNBS report reveals.

Lake Victoria in the western region of the country accounted for 66.1 per cent of the total fish landed with an output of 98,200 tonnes in 2018 while marine fish landed increased by a paltry 4.1 per cent to 24,200.

The continued low share of marine fish landing, says KNBS, is attributed to lack of technology and inadequate investments in deep water fishing especially in the Indian Ocean.

According to a report by Business Daily, under the Exclusive Economic Zones, local fishermen are allowed to fish up to 200 nautical miles from the Kenyan shores but are operating at below five nautical miles.

Lack of appropriate fishing gear to explore the deep sea waters as the country lags behind in achieving the full potential in fishing at the Indian Ocean.

The country has an annual deficit of 365,000 tonnes of fish against annual demand of 500,000 tonnes, which can only be filled through imports.

Kenya imported more than 20,000 tonnes of fish mainly from China last year worth US$17 million (Sh1.7bn) against US$15 million (Sh1.5bn) in the previous year, data from the State department of fisheries reveals.

The east African nation is trying to plug the deficit by promoting aquaculture through the Economic Stimulus Programme that started in the previous administration but has however reported mixed success.

Aquaculture provides up to 24 per cent of the country’s total fish production, with the balance coming from rivers, lakes and Indian Ocean.

According to the department of fisheries, the catch from Lake Victoria has been dwindling over the years as a result water pollution and restrictions fishing in neighbouring countries such as Uganda and Tanzania.