Fisheries stakeholders in Bondo Sub County have asked the government to rescind its decision over the ban on cage fish farming in Lake Victoria.
Two weeks ago, the PS in the state department of fisheries, aquaculture and the blue economy Prof Japheth Ntiba issued a statement in Kisumu calling for immediate stop to the use of fish cages in the lake saying they were causing pollution.
Led by Mr. Saul Odenyo the stakeholders say the decision by the government will not only affect fish farmers who have invested heavily in the sector but also the entire value chain sectors such as transporters, fish feed sellers and cage fabricators.
Odenyo who is an expert in fisheries said cage fish farming supports families including vulnerable women in the region through employment and their removal will adversely affect the region economically.
“Over the years the community, together with local organizations have joined hands to fight poverty and empower women especially along the lake. One of the major projects that has transformed lives of many people is cage fish farming and anything that interferes with it will take a toll on lives here. The government should not stop it but find a way of doing it safely without polluting the waters” Odenyo said.
Addressing the press in Bondo, Odenyo asked the government to instead develop an aquaculture policy framework that will spell clear guidelines on how to undertake cage fish farming in the lake without causing pollution.
He said that currently with cage fish farming being undertaken without any policy, farmers do not have guidelines on recommended feeds, fingerlings or materials for construction of cages.
“Cage fish farming is not entirely a new concept. It has worked well in developed countries and other developing nations including our neighbours Uganda. Our major undoing is that there is no policy to regulate aquaculture therefore everyone is doing farming in his or her own way which means there is a lot of use of substandard materials, feeds and even fingerlings which interfere with the natural habitat in the lake” he observed.
The fisheries expert revealed that currently it is difficult for fish farmers to acquire license of doing cage fish farming due to lake of policy guidelines and they have often been tossed from one office to the other without getting any help.
“Because there is no policy, farmers have not been licensed to do cage fish farming and those who try to get the license have been forced to visit NEMA, WARMA and Fisheries department offices. A policy in place will bring these actors together to issue a consolidate license to the farmers.” Odenyo said
Odenyo stated that the removal of fish cages in the lake will not necessarily increase the fish population in the lake as anticipated by fisheries Ps directive, but the promotion and enforcement of good fishing activities will.
“There is already a lot of illegal fishing gears in the lake. The government should reign in to nab those using the substandard nets and at same time promote cage fish farming so that fish in the wild waters can have time to breed” Odenyo said.