•The country’s Exclusive Economic Zone has an annual potential of 350,000 metric tonnes.
•It is however yielding a paltry 9,134 metric tonnes worth about Sh2.4billion.
The government is keen to maximize benefits from the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Indian Ocean, with construction of a fishing port in Kwale a key driver.
Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has commenced construction of the Shimoni Fishing Port, a facility that will cost up to Sh20 billion once fully complete.
It will include a multi-purpose berth that will incorporate fish and conventional cargo handling, cold storage facilities, reefer stations and value addition including fish processing plants.
The initial fishing harbour will cost around Sh2.6 billion in the first phase of the project.
“KPA has commenced construction of the Shimoni Fishing Port which will be the first port facility dedicated to processing of fish for exports and value addition,” the authority said.
This, as Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua moves to assure coastal residents of the government's commitment to invest in the fishing sector, with the Blue Economy a major focus area for the Kenya Kwanza administration.
“The Blue Economy and Fisheries sector is an important enabler of the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda. It is an opportunity for jobs, wealth creation, food security, and absorption of carbon from the marine eco-system, which is key to tackling climate change,” Gachagua said.
The DP spoke on Wednesday when he launched fishing vessels and patrol boats in Kwale and Mombasa counties, respectively.
The Shimoni project is expected to play a critical role in the country's push to maximise benefits from fishing in the Indian Ocean, as the government drives the blue economy agenda with the putting in place of policies, institutional changes, incentives and funding.
According to the government, the maritime sector has the potential to contribute up to Sh500 billion to the GDP annually.
The country has 370 kilometers from the shore into the Indian Ocean , 600 kilometers of coastal length and about 10,700 square kilometers of navigable inland waters.
Total water surface is estimated at 240,700 square kilometers of the country’s total area of 580,367 square kilometers (42%)–equivalent to the total land surface area of 31 out of the country's 47 counties.
Shimoni Port will help tap into the vast fishing industry which according to government, the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone has an annual potential of 350,000 metric tonnes.
It is however yielding a paltry 9,134 metric tonnes worth about Sh2.4billion.
Overall, Kenya produces 180,000 tonnes per year, Agriculture ministry data shows, including from its inland water sources, against a consumption demand of about 500,000 tonnes.
This has seen the country import fish with China being a key source.
Poor fishing facilities and gears have been blamed for hindering local fishermen from fully reaching their potential.
Mining and Blue Economy CS Salim Mvurya however notes the government has started implementing about Sh10 billion blue economy projects in the five coastal counties, to boost earnings from the sector.
The projects funded by the World Bank have several components including alternative livelihoods for fishermen, whereby groups are recognised and given funds to do projects away from fisheries.
The funds, he said, were given in the form of grants under the Kenya Marine Fisheries Socio-Economic Development Project (KEMFSED).
The 445 beach management units in the country will also be transformed into cooperative societies to enable fishermen to access financial support.
This is both in the Indian Ocean and inland waters, with Lake Victoria also an area of interest.