Thousands of fishermen in Kilifi County risk being locked out of their fishing carrier if they will not have complied with the new fishing rules and regulations in the Fisheries Management and Development Act, 2016.
The Act has banned the use of monofilament gill nets for fishing and requires fishermen to have the recommended gears and equipment before they are issued with licenses.
On Monday, the fishermen, who had converged to find the way forward, appealed to the national government to extend the October deadline for renewal of fishing licenses to allow them comply with the new law before being approved to work.
The fishermen expressed fears that most of them will be forced to stay out of the waters since they cannot afford the recommended fishing gears.
Led by Kilifi Boat Operators Association Chairman Shallo Issa, the fishermen called on the Kilifi County government to intervene and purchase gill nets and fishing boats for them before they are banned from fishing.
“Most of our fishermen are using illegal fishing nets and boats which have been prohibited by the government. The law is being enforced and this means that, automatically, we have been locked out of fishing,” said Mr Issa.
ONLY SOURCE OF INCOME
Speaking at Kilifi Old Ferry Beach, Mr Issa said it is a blow to fishermen along the coastal shores who have no other source of income.
“About 95 percent of fishermen on the coastal shores are using monofilament gill nets for fishing. The law is going to financially cripple thousands of people who cannot afford to purchase the recommended type of fishing net. Many families are going to suffer,” he said.
Mr Issa said most fishermen will be since they will still be tempted to go fishing in order to provide for their families.
Mzee Robinson Shikari alias Tumbuiza from Kilifi Central Beach Management Unit (BMU) said most fishermen who cannot go into the deep sea because of the poor fishing gears have been forced to use the monofilament gill nets.
Mzee Shikari accused both the county and national governments of failing to conduct public participation to establish challenges that fishermen go through before coming up with tough laws.
“We use small boats and canoes for fishing which hinders us from going to the deep sea. Most of us fish along the creek where these new nets that the government wants us to use will not be of any help to us. If officers could have come on the ground they would have seen this and advised the government accordingly,” he said.
He said most of them have exhausted their savings after they were forced to stay out of work due to the high tides in the ocean.
“This is why we have always been raising our voices and asking our government to come up with ways of cushioning us. Most fishermen work from hand to mouth which makes it hard for them to handle urgent issues that require money,” he said.
For Mr Kitsao Kalama, he did not want break the law. He secured a loan to purchase the gill nets and an auto boat engine.
He said one set of gill net costs about Sh23,000 and the auto boat engine costs about Sh185,000.