Fishermen in Lamu County claim that fish stocks have reduced drastically in the last few months over the dredging activities for the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor and fear the situation may exacerbate.
According to the fishermen, the dredging exercise has had a negative impact on the Indian Ocean floor which harbor feeding and breeding grounds for fish and other marine animals.
Ali Hassan, a fisherman who has been in the industry for 15 years said the ocean used to have plenty of fish before the multi-billion shillings Lappsset project commenced in 2012.
Speaking in Lamu while sailing in the ocean Hassan said the fishing grounds have greatly been affected by the project.
”There is no fish food, fish have no food to eat, the fish have no place to live, their breeding grounds were destroyed,” he said.
Previously he said fishermen could get up to 200 to 300 kilograms of fish but today, one is lucky to get 10 kilograms catch which is unable to support basic family needs and school fees.
He said as fishermen they spend a lot of money to make fishing boats and normally expect a return of their investments but due to the loss of fish, many fishermen have removed them and placed them offshore.
”If you go fishing you get only eight to 10 kilos, the entire Ocean here has been affected because of the port, we opposed it but the government promised us compensation but up to date they have not compensated us,” he said.
Hassan showed journalists the color of the ocean waters which had changed because of dredging which destroyed the food for the fish.
He said a lot of fish died due to the impact caused by the dredging exercise which destroyed corals and food for the fish.
Like many other fishermen in the county, Hassan pleads with the government to consider fulfilling its compensation promise to enable fishermen consider alternative source of income.
Hassan who is a father of ten said all his children depended on his fishing job to survive and go to school but now he can barely afford their upkeep due to the losses.
“I used to have two fishing boats but one is now grounded because of a lack of maintenance costs.”
So far he said there are more than 20 fishing vessels that are grounded in Kiingitini, Mbwajumwli, Faa, Mtangawanda as owners are unable to repair them.
Those who own vessels have also lost income because the amount of fish catch is too low when compared to operational expenses.
According to the fishermen, their old boats are also not able to venture into deep sea fishing due to rough tides that pose risk on their lives.
”It’s better if we are compensated so that one can open a business and relocate from the village to buy a rental house or buy a vehicle which will bring income,” he said.
Lamu County Woman Representative Ruweida Mohamed who has been in the forefront in fighting for compensation of the residents of Lamu said its important that the government speeds up the process of compensating the fishermen.
”I am in government and I will fight from within, I shall not rebel and begin opposing the government but will always speak the truth when things go wrong for the benefit of the locals,” she said.
Mohmed said she asked question in parliament demanding to know when fishermen will be compensated and when the remaining 600 residents will be given scholarships to hit the 1000 promised by the government.
”Right now its the Chinese contractor who is employing people depending on his capability but when complete there will be a lot of benefits,” said Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia.