Marine Fisheries Program
Small-scale fishing has taken place on Kenya's coast for centuries. But today, the productivity and biodiversity of its marine fisheries are in decline. Recent population growth has increased the pressure on the coastal resources, while the cultural traditions that helped guard against overfishing have been eroded through social change and economic migration. In addition, many fishers use destructive techniques such as fine-meshed net, lacking the information and savings needed to invest in more sustainable alternatives.
Fishing communities would be able to make more of their catch if they had better marketing techniques and storage facilities. Tourism has restricted access to beach landing sites, and in many areas access to local markets to sell the fish is limited by poor infrastructure. Eco-Ethics is working with local groups to address some of these issues.
Integrated indigenous and modern fish processing and marketing
For the artisanal fishing communities, catching the fish is only half the work. Processing the fish and keeping it cold once it has been brought ashore is a major challenge, especially in areas with no electricity supply. Using traditional practices, fish losses are significant, representing missed income for the fishermen and fish dealers alike. To compensate for the loss, more fishing effort is needed in the shallow in-shore fisheries, leading to further degradation of the natural resource. Eco-Ethics worked with local fishing groups in Tana Delta, a remote region one day's travel north of Mombasa, to introduce improved fish processing technologies that build on indigenous knowledge.
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Fish landing site infrastructure improvement
Many fish landing sites on the Kenyan coast have no infrastructure, lacking the depots locally known as bandas. This forces the fishermen to land their fish on bare ground, with all the related risks of contamination, spoilage and subsequent low prices. In partnership with the Fisheries Department, we constructed four fish bandas and four community pit latrines at Likoni, Chale, Gazi and Ozi, and repaired a dilapidated banda at Shimoni, which are all fishing communities in South Coast. This allowed for more hygienic fish handling and provided a place for meetings and centralised fish dispatch to dealers. Other project activities included training in marketing and leadership, building relationships between stakeholders, and forming a Beach Management Unit to ensure community ownership of the facilities at Likoni. Funding was provided by the Lighthouse Foundation.
Appropriate fishing gear
Artisanal fishers lack the motorised boats that would allow them to reach the deep ocean. Instead, they fish shallow coastal waters where young fish are found, making the fish stocks vulnerable to overexploitation. In the waters off Mvuleni, south of Mombasa, a high concentration of fishers using spear guns and seine net within the lagoon were depleting fish numbers and damaging the coral reef. This project, part funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, aimed to stabilise the resource base by introducing a motorised fishing boat and more sustainable fishing gear for use by the Mvuleni Fishermen Self-Help Group. Training in resource management and conservation was also given to raise awareness of this delicate ecosystem. To address gender issues, the local Wachuuzi women's group was closely involved in the project; subsequent evaluation revealed greater understanding between men and women within households as a result of their collaboration.
Improved fish quality
Our project in Tana Delta builds on findings from earlier research at the fish landing stations in Majoreni and Gazi. To improve on traditional techniques of sun-drying and smoking fish, researchers trialled a solar-powered drying tunnel and new energy-saving smoking kilns. This technology integrates indigenous knowledge but is more environmentally friendly - and more efficient. The work was a collaboration between Eco-Ethics Kenya, the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. The Lighthouse Foundation provided funding.
Group sensitization and training
Fishermen lack adequate knowledge in marine biology and enterprise development. After the collapse of many cooperative fishing societies, which led to huge losses in savings, fishermen became suspicious of government-backed co-management strategies. This has left fishing groups with little capacity to advocate for fisherfolk rights, fair fisheries management and effective marketing. To help fill the gap, we organized meetings and workshops for fishermen and related community groups in several project sites. The meetings covered topics such as sustainable resource use, group dynamics and partnership building. As a result, we noticed improvement in the management of many of the groups and greater empowerment among members, especially women.