Kenyan Ministry lifts ban on fishing with ring nets, even if local fishers from Pemba say it will destroy the corals.
The below article is from Kenya Daily Nation, December 26th, 2010. It shows how government decisions can sometimes go against advice from both local communities and conservationists to try to increase revenue from the fishing industry. We have to hope the management of the use of ring nets works out as planned and Kenya can avoid seeing the same damages to their reefs as the fishers from Pemba report from their home island...
A ban on the use of ring nets has been lifted to enable local fishermen to increase catches and improve their economic status. Fisheries assistant minister Abu Chiaba said in Mombasa that the decision followed consultations with various stakeholders despite complaints by conservationists that ring nets are detrimental to the environment. He said the ministry realised that use of ring nets was the only way fishermen could improve their catch and get out of poverty.
“Fishermen at the Coast are still poor more than 45 years after Independence because they do not have the capacity to exploit the exclusive economic zone. As a ministry, we have successfully lobbied the Treasury for funds to set up cold storage facilities in Vanga, Mombasa, Malindi and Lamu, but these will be useless if the fishermen do not catch enough to utilise them,” Mr Chiaba said. He said the government has spent KSh 30 million to put up each cold storage facility.
The Ministry of Fisheries set up a taskforce to look at the controversial fishing method following complaints from conservationists. The taskforce came up with conditions that ring net users had to follow to get a special license from the Fisheries Department. Members of the taskforce, who sought anonymity because they are not authorised to talk to the press, said they were also expected to come up with guidelines on mesh size, type of boats and areas that ring net users will be allowed to fish in.
The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute has given ring net fishing a clean bill of health, saying that it was not harmful to the environment if properly monitored. According to research carried out in Kipini in Tana Delta, ring net fishing leads to increased fish landings and should be encouraged if the region had to hit targeted catches and increase fishermen’s incomes.
But fishermen from Pemba, an island in the Zanzibar archipelago from where ring nets are said to have originated, caution against their use, saying they could be detrimental to the marine ecosystem. Speaking in Kipini, a spokesman for Pemba fishermen Hamadi Hassan said ring nets destroyed corals, which are breeding grounds for fish. “We have been fighting ring nets back home because they are destructive. We are giving Kenya just three years before they start seeing the impact. Most of the Pemba fishermen, who are considered the best in the region, use ordinary fishing lines because other methods lead to destruction of the environment,” he said.
Ring net fishing was introduced to the Kenyan Coast in late 1980s and early 1990s mainly in Vanga and Gazi. Ring nets are long continuous stretches of netting measuring about 300 metres and set at a depth of about 25 to 30 metres. They can be described as purse seines used to encircle a school of fish usually in the deep sea waters outside the reef. The gear is conveniently operated by motorboats using crew ranging between 30 to 40 fishermen.