KENYA – The government will phase out hormonal fish breeding as part of measures to meet stringent export standards set by the European Union (EU) market.

Fisheries Resources Development and Marketing acting director Harrison Charo said the government would instead embrace YY tilapia technology, a production method which does not use hormones, but is based on genetic manipulation of fish sex in breeding.

The EU, which accounts for nearly all the Kenya’s Sh5 billion-a-year fish export, had previously banned country’s fish in its markets, citing safety concerns. Dr Charo said the government would comply with EU’s safety standards.

“Over the past years, we have been preparing a residue monitoring plan so that we can have our farmed fish access that market. The plan has been accepted by the EU and we have to ensure our farmers comply with the standards put in place,” he said.

He said the government had encouraged the use of hormones to breed fish that have a high maturity rate. He, however, said the use of various hormones posed health risks due to their handling and therefore had been banned in Europe.

“In YY technology, one can still get monosex fish which matures fast without the use of hormones. We’re in the process of constructing a hatchery at the Sagana-based National Aquaculture Research Development Training Centre to produce YY species and phase out the hormones completely. This way we will access the EU market,” he said.

He spoke during a recent ceremony to hand over the Sh60 million Kanyakine Fish Factory to the Meru County government. The facility has the capacity to process 15 tonnes of fish per week. Other similar facilities are in Kakamega, Nyeri and Migori.

Dr Charo encouraged fish farmers to diversify into other types of fish to improve production. He said the Ministry of Agriculture was also putting up a quarantine facility where fish for export would be kept before they are released to farmers.

“This will mostly apply to farmers interested in ornamental fish which also fetches premium prices. Plans are also underway to build a state-of-the-art fish quality laboratory in Nairobi, with satellite stations in Mombasa and Kisumu to enhance residue monitoring for fish.

“This will enable small, medium and large-scale capture and fish farming enterprises access to markets in the EU and beyond,” he said.

During the ceremony, county Agriculture executive Kaburu M’Ribu said Meru residents had embraced fish farming.

He said the county built 140 fish ponds in 2013 in addition to the 300 constructed under the Economic Stimulus Programme to boost production.

“We will also be providing extension services to our farmers at the same time partner with the stakeholders to increase fish production in Meru,” he said.

Aquaculture Association of Kenya chairman Thiakunu Mwirabua said inland fish farming produces more fish than local ocean and inland fisheries.

May 6, 2015;