COVID-19 impacts on marine fisheries MCS in Kenya

Posted By Orbital Design:9th Oct, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to considerable challenges in Kenya, and the fisheries sector has been one of the hardest hit, affecting over 13,000 fishers, and over 100,000 persons in the upstream value chain.

The government of Kenya developed a range of safety measures to control the spread of COVID-19 within the country. These measures included suspension of international passenger flights, a dusk to dawn curfew and cessation of movements in certain areas. These containment measures affected Nairobi area and the coastal counties of Kwale, Mombasa and Kilifi. Other measures include the prohibition of public gatherings, processions or movement, social distancing, introduction of the work-from-home concept, wearing of masks in public places, sanitization of hands, monitoring of body temperatures and testing for the virus in suspect cases.

These measures have greatly impacted on marine fisheries and their management in Kenya. Government institutions have downscaled staff-presence to almost quarter the normal capacity and this has really challenged office operations that include monitoring control and surveillance (MCS).

Enforcement agencies such as Kenya Fisheries Service and Kenya Coast Guard Service that are directly mandated to monitor and regulate IUU fishing have not been able to deliver effective services. Due to the scaled-down number of staff and operation levels on MCS, fishers at sea and traders are likely engaging in illicit activities knowing that they will not be arrested.

The government has also suspended resource allocation for office operations and this has affected the provision of services. Some of the impacted management operations include licensing of fishers and fishing vessels, patrols, data collection, observer deployments, port inspections on fishing vessels, pre-sailing, pre-fishing pre-landing, and transhipment inspections, inspections at fish landing sites and markets, electronic tracking by VMS and AIS, issuing catch certificates and interagency collaboration.

Through interagency collaboration at the Mombasa port, some general guidelines have been developed and are being implemented along with COVID-19 protocols. But not much attention has been given to fisheries MCS, or even the artisanal fish landing stations spread out along the coastline.

Guidelines and measures currently implemented for MCS in port:

  • Inspections for local tuna fishing vessels are being carried out “swiftly” and with strict adherence to Ministry of Health guidelines.
  • Prior to every inspection, it is ensured that the Public Health department has inspected the fishing vessel and issued a certificate of pratique.
  • All fisheries inspectors and observers monitoring transhipments and fish landings are issued with a bottle of hand sanitizer, gloves and a mask, and required to strictly inspect the cargo and limit entry into enclosed areas. This limits the scope and authenticity of the inspection.
  • Pre-fishing inspections of local fishing vessels are at times being done “online”, in collaboration with the operators who normally take photos of the essential equipment, areas, and prepared fishing gears of the fishing vessels.
  • No observers are being deployed on any of the local industrial fishing vessels, putting the fishery at a high risk.
  • No physical meetings of more than four persons are allowed, so meetings are taking place online.

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