Country hopes to upscale annual fish output from 120,000 to 430,000 metric tonnes
Kenya is looking to unlock the potential of its fish market with plans to upscale tuna fish exports.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said the country was keen on exploiting the blue economy by increasing its annual fish production of 128,000 metric tonnes to over 430,000 metric tonnes.
The blue economy is the sustainable and efficient use of ocean or sea waters for economic development with minimised disturbance to the aquatic life.
CS Bett said in a gazette notice last week the country plans to increase its tuna fish production that currently stands at 20 per cent, which is the second largest in the world, to tap into the $2 billion (Sh200 billion) global market.
He said despite the challenges the sector faces, including climate change, there is a huge potential in Kenya’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Western Indian Ocean that alone has an estimated potential of Sh300,000 metric tonnes of fish annually.
“The high valued tropical tuna and tuna-like fish species are abundant in the Kenyan EEZ and its surrounding high seas due to the location within the seasonal inter-monsoon up swelling phenomenon,” said the CS.
Kenya rakes in Sh21.3 billion annually from the sale of the 128,000 metric tonnes of fish, Sh2.1 billion being in the form of foreign exchange while the rest is generated from farm gate sales.
The exports are derived from freshwaters (81 per cent), aquaculture (12 per cent) and marine waters a paltry seven per cent.
This leaves a huge potential of over 50 per cent equivalent to Sh30 billion.
Lake Turkana is among the water bodies with untapped potential estimated at 30,000 metric tonnes of fish.
Mr Bett said Kenya needs to take advantage of the 1,420km-long coastline to grow the industry through the blue economy.
However, one of the biggest stumbling blocks of tapping into the blue economy, noted the CS, is the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities in the country’s marine waters. Others are post-harvest losses, absence of transitional boundary regimes in the East African Community and lack of infrastructure that has incapacitated local fishers to venture into deep sea fishing.
“To smoothen unregulated fishing in the marine waters, Kenya has acquired an offshore patrol vessel and established a Fisheries Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Centre,” said the CS.