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Fishermen want tax on gear, equipment waived

Thursday June 13 2019

Women dry fish

Women dry fish popularly known as 'omena' in the shores of Lake Victoria in Kisumu County on April 26, 2018. Fishermen expect Treasury to subsidise fishing equipment. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

GEORGE ODIWUOR
By GEORGE ODIWUOR
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VICTOR RABALLA
By VICTOR RABALLA
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Every evening, at 4pm, Mr William Onditi prepares his fishing gear, ready to venture into Lake Victoria where he earns his living.

Part of his daily routine is to check for leaks on his boat to minimise accidents, and untangle his net. He operates at Nyandiwa Beach in Suba South.

When darkness falls, Mr Onditi is joined by other fishermen who also have their boats as they set sail into the lake.

Their mission in the lake is to catch omena (sadines) but on a good day, their nets also catch tilapia and the Nile Perch.

Their wooden boats do not have navigation equipment. Mr Onditi said he has witnessed accidents in which fishermen have drowned because of archaic boats and lack of life jackets.

Some of the accidents are caused by strong waves. He attributes the problem to lack of modern fishing gear and navigation equipment. It is for this reason that today, fishermen are expecting the government to declare a tax waiver on imported fishing gear. Fishermen claim they have not been considered in previous budgets.

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MARINE OFFICERS

Homa Bay County Beach Management Unit chairman, Edward Oremo, expects the Treasury to subsidise fishing equipment.

“Despite fisheries being under the Ministry of Agriculture, it has often been sidelined during budget making, unlike crop production where farmers get cheaper fertiliser and seeds. We would like to get cheaper fishing tools too,” he said.

Mr Oremo added that most fishermen have difficulty fishing because of archaic gear.

“Most fishermen risk their lives while using locally-made equipment, which are dangerous,” he said.

“The government needs to put emphasis on this to save fishermen from expensive imported modern gear,” he said.

The fishermen also expect the Treasury Cabinet Secretary to increase the allocation on marine security officers on Lake Victoria because of arrests by Tanzanian and Ugandan security officers.

OFFENCES

Mr Oremo said that his office had secured the freedom of many fishermen who were arrested for violating the laws of neighbouring countries.

“Some of the offences are crossing the boundary. But this is not a fisherman’s problem because he does not know where the boundary is,” Mr Oremo said.

Mr Onditi said that he has been a victim of an assault by Ugandan security. “I had to pay money to secure my freedom. Those without money are asked to surrender their catch to be set free,” he said.

Whenever Kenyans are arrested in Uganda or Tanzania, calls are usually made to the office of the county beach management unit to secure their release.

“Kenyans often get in trouble on the lake because of lack of support from our police,” he stated.