OPINION: Why PS Ntiba should leave cage fish farmers on unwarranted regulation- AKINYI

A fish cage in Lake Victoria

By Bella Akinyi

It was not surprising to hear P.S. State Dept for Fisheries, Aquaculture and Blue economy Prof. Micheni Ntiba talk about regulating cages in the lake, yet going back to 2013 we have been asking for regulations in the lake similar to our neighbors.  

Regulations were put in place for East Africa a few years back and Kenya is the only country that has never bothered to adopt those regulations as have Tanzania and Uganda.

The timing is interesting – the world is now talking blue economy and funds are coming in and suddenly, the P.S. remembers – now that he has 15 Billion shillings from IFAD and more money on the way that regulations need to be in place.  

The major stake holders have never been consulted – actually we have been ignored altogether until they realized this is a multimillion dollar industry and set about deliberately ensuring that Nyanza gets zero support in this venture unlike coffee, tea, flowers, dairy, maize – where the government has done its part since independence to support those who come from those regions by putting in place necessary infrastructure and tax incentives as well as duty free imports.  

For example when you import a boat engine, you pay so much money on duty and taxes but tractors are duty free.  

Remember for those of us in commercial fish production industry, the boat engines are our tractors. For nets they charge duty, citing protecting local industry yet we have not local industry producing nets.

P.S’s statement is reminiscent of the late Kenyatta and Moi era where you had to get their permission to conduct business that would bring in a “lot of money”. A way of big brother keeping track of perceived threat, because if you are financially independent, you don’t need them and are you are “hard to control”.  

It is not a secret that ponds – a popular concept of fish farming in Kenya will never be at the same high production levels found with cages in terms of commercial production, as it is expensive to maintain commercially as it involves pumping water regularly in ponds which is reminiscent of maintaining a swimming pool. 

Don’t be surprised if you start hearing unscientific claims that pond production of fish beats cage productions and they start pointing fingers at “failed” cage production after fighting hard to ensure the playing ground is not even since the 15 billion from IFAD is geared towards ponds, not the lake, and we are sure they will tell IFAD in Rome some story how those of us in the lake are “ineligible”. This is how many great initiatives in our regions have been extinguished. Enough is enough! 

Where were they when the first 500 cages were installed? They wait after they allowed foreigners in our waters, have given them permits to invest in our waters.

How many foreigners in Nyeri, etc growing coffee? Chinese growing flowers? The government’s job is protecting local production, giving us incentives but instead invites foreigners to install cages coming with 300 million shillings or more.

How do we locals compete with that? Then now you try to stifle the little we have.  

All cage farmers have used their hard earned savings without any help from the government, taken our staff for training abroad when Kenya had no proper institutions in aquaculture, though they should have been there to help, despite roadblocks, we are rising and now we are to sit back and allow the PS to tell us he needs a study! 

Some of us have also spent our hard earned money to ensure environmental impact assessment studies were performed before cages were installed with permits from relevant authorities several years ago. When Tanzania and Uganda were participating in these studies, where was Kenya? 

The cages are blocking fishermen? Seriously? Has the P.S. been in a boat in the lake and seen the blocked path? Beach Management Units cannot allow you to block their path!

The lake is so under utilized with very few boats crisscrossing- we wish blocked paths was an actual problem as it would mean a booming blue economy in the lake! Does he realize there is no fish in the lake and it has been that way for over 2 decades long before cages came into play. So, what are we protecting here? A fisherman can spend all day in the water and come up with 2 pieces of fish.

With cage farming, we are able to give the lake a much needed break from overfishing and species will recover. By the way, most fish consumed world wide are farmed in cages. It actually saves species. 

Let us remind the PS that fisheries had been devolved.  

The PS should not give orders without laws in place and should stop treating us like children. 

Bella Akinyi 
Cage Farmers Association, Vice Chair Tropical Fish Value Chain Association, Chair