The Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) has embarked on a countrywide registration and issuance of number plates to all vessels currently operating in major water bodies across the country.
The joint exercise with other government agencies including NTSA is meant to address rising cases of boat accidents and illegal activities in the lakes and Indian Ocean.
Under the venture, all the vessels will be issued special number plates after undergoing checks to determine if they are safe and are not involved in illegal activities.
This emerged when senior officials of KMA and Kenya Coast Guards Services (KCGS) held a public participation exercise in Tarembete Landing Beach in Lake Naivasha.
According to the authority Regional Manager Alex Mwongo, the exercise would lock out tens of illegal fishermen who had invaded the country’s water bodies.
He noted that in the last census, there were 16,000 registered vessels adding that the current exercise was meant to authenticate the owners and the condition of their boats.
“We have launched the registration exercise involving other agencies like NTSA, KWS and fisheries and any boat without a number plate will not be allowed into the lake,” he said.
Mwongo noted that the programme would come in handy in dealing with runaway cases of illegal fishing mainly in Lake Naivasha.
“The Coast guards are already in Lake Naivasha and under this exercise, we shall be able to monitor which boats are illegally in the lake,” he said.
The Chairman Tarambete beach Rajab Omari termed the move as long overdue, noting that the lake was currently under the mercy of illegal poachers.
He said that in the last year licensed fishermen had lost fishing gear worth millions of shillings to the poachers who were using unlicensed boats to access the lake.
“We welcome the arrival of the Coast Guards into the lake and the move by the Kenya Maritime Authority to issue number plates to fishermen is a major milestone,” he said.
Omari added closure of corridors leading to the lake and the rise in water hyacinth had adversely affected the fishing community that solely relied on the lake.
On his part, a fisherman Dan Erot added that the rise in the number of armed illegal fishermen in the lake had adversely affected fish production.
“We are living in fear due to attacks by these poachers who are also stealing our nets and catch and it’s time that their presence was addressed,” he said.
By Antony Gitonga