ROTTING AWAY

Lamu fishermen stuck with tonnes of tuna for lack of market

A kilo is selling for as low as Sh100

In Summary

• There is no ready market for the fish leaving the fishermen reeling in losses.

• Twalib said they have been forced to sell their catch to local fish mongers at throwaway prices.

Fishermen in Lamu county have been left with their nets full and no market for the massive tuna fish harvest recorded this month.

The fishermen are from major fishing hubs in the region like Lamu Island, Shella, Matondoni, Kipungani,Kiunga, Ishakani, Kizingitini, Faza and Pate in Lamu East and West.

Lamu Fishermen and Dealers Association chairman Abubakar Twalib said they have been forced to sell their catch to local fish mongers at throwaway prices.

Normally, a kilo of tuna goes for between Sh400 and Sh500 but since the supply is high, the fishermen are selling at Sh100 per kilo.

Twalib said, even with coolers, they are forced to discarded tonnes of rotting tuna daily due to the lack of market.

The fishermen are appealing to the county government to help them secure markets for the fish.

They have also urged the county government to establish a fish processing factory in the region to enable them make the most out of the trade.

They are appealing to well-wishers to help them purchase adequate coolants and related equipment to enable them store their catch for longer as they find markets.

“Tuna is really expensive because its good quality meat, the best among all fish species. Right now, our fishermen are bringing in over 50 tonnes of tuna daily and we have nowhere to sell except the local markets which are already flooded,” Twalib said.

For decades, fishermen in Lamu have sold their catch directly to Chinese dealers in Mombasa who later sell to exporters.

However, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, Twalib said the dealers no longer export fish to China due to regulations imposed to contain the spread of the virus.

"We're looking forward to the reopening of lobster and tuna market in China so we can export our fish as has been the norm. The export market gives us good returns," fisherman Omar Shundwe said.

The Lamu archipelago has over 6,000 fishermen spread across the various islands with fishing being a major income earner for the region.