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Seizure of illegal fishing vessels was a step in the right direction

Sunday June 16 2019

The recent seizure of two illegal fishing vessels by the Kenya Coast Guard is a significant step toward ridding our coastline of perennial exploitation by foreign vessels.

The two Chinese fishing vessels FV HARONG 108 and FV HARONG 109 were intercepted by the coast guard some 5 nautical miles off Ungwana Bay last month. Crew members comprised 13 Chinese and seven Indian nationals.

Ungwana Bay (formerly known as Formosa Bay) extends from Ras Ngomeni in the south to Ras Shaka in the north. The Sabaki River flows into the bay in the south, and the Tana River flows into the bay in the north.

Kenya has a long coastal line spanning 640 km from the Somalia border in the north to Tanzania in the south. The territorial waters cover 12 nautical miles from the shore, while the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) covers 200 nautical miles.

The living marine resources of Kenya have been exploited for many years as a food source. Most African countries lack policies for ocean governance.

Only six countries in Africa currently have dedicated coast guards, though many navies effectively conduct coast-guard operations. The lack of extensive maritime air surveillance and satellite imagery makes it almost impossible for African countries to effectively monitor their territorial waters and EEZs.

The responsibilities of the Coast Guard include Search and Rescue (SAR), Maritime Law Enforcement (MLE), Aids to Navigation (ATON), Ice Breaking, Environmental Protection, Port Security and Military Readiness.

Kenya loses Sh10 billion annually due to increased illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in our territorial waters and EEZ. It is estimated that the worldwide value of IUU catches stands at US $4 to $9 billion, a large part of it from Sub-Sahara Africa, particularly Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and the Gulf of Guinea, while the IUU activities practice fish-catch laundering through mother-ship factories, uncontrolled trans-shipment and re-supply at sea.

With these means allowing vessels to remain at sea for months, refuelling, re-supplying and rotating their crew, IUU fishing vessels never need to enter ports because they transfer their catches onto transport ships commonly known as mother-ships. Illegally caught fish and other marine products are laundered by mixing the loot with legally caught fish on board of the transport vessels.