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Kenya prepares to exploit blue economy riches

Tuesday, April 25, 2017 > 09:18:17

Media Max Kenya

Kenya sits within the rich tuna belt of  western Indian Ocean where about 25 per cent of the world’s saltwater fish is harvested yet the fishing sector performance remains lacklustre due to lack of large and equipped vessels.

Further, Malindi hosts the only place in the world with the best chance of catching five different billfish species — broadbill swordfish, black, blue striped marlin and sailfish — in one day but this potential has not been exploited.

According to Shipping and Maritime Affairs Principal Secretary Nancy Karigithu deep sea fishing is part of the water economy, which is now referred to as the blue economy.

The blue economy concept is viewed as an alternative economic model for sustainable development. It puts the oceans at the centre of the water economy.

Karigithu describes the blue economy as “an unexplored goldmine of possibilities, a sleeping giant capable of transforming Kenya into a first world economy”.

“Imagine with more than 25 tonnes of cargo coming into the country as imports, Kenya doesn’t own a single commercial ship. This compares poorly to her landlocked neighbour in Ethiopia, which has 18 commercial ships earning the country up to Sh4 billion ($40 million) annually,” Karigithu said.

Territorial waters

Kenya’s territorial waters cover up to 230, 000 square kilometres and a distance of 200 nautical miles offshore.

According to the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA), the coastal ecosystem’s estimated annual economic value of goods and services is Sh440 billion ($4.1 billion) with tourism enjoying Sh410 billion ($4.1 billion) out of the Sh2.2 trillion ($22 billion) in the western Indian Ocean.

Although more than 92 per cent of Kenya’s international trade is facilitated through the sea yet local local investors have not been keen to put massive capital in the maritime sector.

“Blue economy in Kenya entails development of the existing opportunities such as deep sea fishing, aquaculture, sports fishing and artisanal fishing and future uses such as deep sea mining, Wind Energy, luxury tourism and Marinas” KMA head of Commercial Shipping John Omingo told People Daily.

The creation of the Fisheries and Blue Economy department within the Ministry of Agriculture in September last year, signalled Kenya’s realisation to the reality of the wealth potential in its waters even as the country loses up to Sh10 billion annually to illegal fishing activities along the coastline.

“Plans are also underway to develop designated fish ports at the Coast to facilitate the landing of the catch by deep sea fishing vessels,” Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich said last month when he presented the 2017/18 Budget Statement.

Further, to facilitate the development of the blue economy, Rotich allocated Sh300 million for aquaculture technology growth and innovation transfer.

Next month

Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett confirmed the government is looking forward to receive a vessel May next month that will intensify patrols in the high seas to curb illegal fishing and minimise over-fishing.

“A task force established to spearhead the country’s blue economy potential is working round the clock to ensure Kenya sustainably exploits the numerou resources within our waters,” said Bett.

He said his ministry is in the process of implementing the Fisheries Management and Development Act, 2016 which intends to unlock the potential of the country’s inland and oceanic waters.

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