Tuna supply dries up for Kenya’s local fishing community


VANGA, Kenya (AP) — “Tuna is not for everyone,” lamented Chapoka Miongo, 65, a handline fisherman on Kenya’s southern coast, from his canoe.

He is one of many artisanal fishermen in Shimoni, a bustling coastal town 82 kilometers (51 miles) south of Mombasa, dotted with dhows, canoes, outrigger canoes and skiffs anchored at the landing site of the beach. Dozens of fishmongers, processors and traders line the coast awaiting the return of fishermen.

“My canoe is only suitable for the near coast and only those with big boats and money can access the tuna,” he said. Miongo explained that warming waters due to climate change have forced tuna species to change their migration patterns, making it harder for local fishermen to catch them. Fish stocks have also declined due to a lack of sustainable fishing by larger vessels.

The Shimoni Channel, once a well-known tuna haunt, benefits from the north and southeast monsoons which can result in substantial catches, according to records kept by the Kenya Fisheries Service.

But the current monsoon has not been kind to Miongo. He can barely fill his bucket: his modest catch for the day includes a motley lot of emperor fish.

Yellowfin tuna in particular, which fetches competitive prices in the market, may seem like “lucky luck” to fishermen, said 60-year-old shrimp fisherman Mazera Mgala.

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After a seemingly futile five-day hunt for fish landing sites in Gazi Bay, Shimoni Channel and the Vanga waterfront for yellowfin tuna, a six-and-a-half-kilogram fish was finally found. caught by an outrigger canoe fisherman in the Shimoni Channel.

Miongo and Mgala are among some 1,500 fishermen who depend on the rich marine waters of the channel. In Miongo’s three decades of fishing, he says, large foreign vessels, more young men opting for artisanal fishing due to a lack of white-collar jobs and higher education opportunities, and the climate change are depleting livelihoods.

Vanga fisherman Kassim Abdalla Zingizi added that most artisanal fishers lack the skills, knowledge and financial support to compete with large foreign vessels, mainly from Europe and Asia, which deploy satellite tracking technologies to track the various schools of tuna throughout the Indian Ocean.

The Kenyan government is implementing an economic strategy that will tackle the effects of climate change on the livelihoods of coastal residents, build the skills of artisanal fishers and promote more sustainable fishing practices, Dennis said. Oigara from the Kenya Fisheries Service.

Subsidies to major fisheries – which have long been accused of destructive fishing practices – have featured prominently in World Trade Organization talks for more than a decade without a resolution. Earlier this year, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, responsible for regulating tuna in the region, was criticized for failing to implement measures to protect several tuna species from overfishing during its annual meeting.

After catch limits for two species of tuna were exceeded between 2018 and 2020, conservation groups blasted the tuna commission for what they called a “decade of failure” that has left tuna stocks “more and more in danger”. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature has called for a global boycott of yellowfin tuna.

The Maldivian government, which unsuccessfully proposed that tuna commission members reduce their catches by 22% from 2020, said it was “extremely disappointed” with the outcome of the meeting.

Christopher O’Brien, executive secretary of the commission, said the number of active fishing vessels in the Indian Ocean was down.

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“There are currently over 6,100 vessels licensed to fish Indian Ocean tuna species. In 2020, there were just over 3,300 active vessels,” he explained. Miongo canoes and canoes and Abdalla are not among these 6,100 vessels registered by the tuna commission, which is dominated by industrial fishing fleets.

The Fisheries Committee also agreed to set up two special sessions in the near future to iron out concerns over yellowfin stocks, with the first scheduled for early 2023.

But the commission also passed a landmark resolution to study the effects of climate change on tuna stocks in the region, hailed as one of the successes of the conference. The study aims to understand the complex relationship between climate change, tuna fisheries and tuna stocks with a view to informing future adaptation and mitigation measures. It is the second regional fisheries management organization to implement a resolution on climate change.

“We hope that the adoption of this proposal will guide us towards achieving long-term sustainability of tuna and tuna-like species stocks,” said Adam Ziyad, Director General of the Maldivian Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Conservation. ‘agriculture. .

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says climate variability has led to a reduction in marine stocks, the movement of fish from lower latitude regions to higher latitude regions, coral bleaching and an increased risk of conflict over scarce resources. These changes are already being felt by local fishing communities.

“Back then, I started fishing early in the morning and three to four hours later I was done because I had caught enough fish,” said Mazera Mgala, who started fishing in 1975 and was diving in the ocean in its youth among vibrant corals and abundant fish. “Today I stay longer at sea and I still catch less.”


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