Fish populations at the Kenyan coast have dropped to dangerously low levels mainly because of illegal fishing.
Experts warn if the trend continues, Kenyans will not eat the popular Tuna species by 2050.
They said the country is far from eliminating illegal fishing at the coast because it lacks capacity to monitor and control illegal, foreign vessels.
According to some estimates, the Kenyan, Tanzanian and Mozambican coastline is home to more than 20 million people whose livelihoods are dependent on oceans.
“These people are under serious threat from controllable human actions such as illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing that rob them of their daily livelihoods and revenue,” said the World Wide Fund for Nature deputy head Helena Motta.
WWF now wants the Kenyan government to ratify international mechanisms known as the Port State Measures, which the government signed in November 2010, to combat non-sustainable fishing practices.
Speaking in Kwale during the launch of the 2015 edition of WWF’s Living Blue Planet report, Motta noted that only three African countries have ratified them.
The mechanism would typically include requirements related to prior notification of port entry, use of designated ports, restrictions on port entry and landing/transhipment of fish, restrictions on supplies and services, documentation requirements and port inspections, as well as related measures, such as IUU vessel listing, trade-related measures and sanctions.
Motta said this would go a long way in strengthening fisheries management and governance.
“It is sad to note that illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing continues to be a massive problem for African countries. The ratification of Port State Measures by Kenya would go a long way in improving our national security through better control of ports, coasts and maritime areas for the overall benefit of us all, and our oceans,” added Motta.
The speakers noted that the population of fish was declining worldwide, due to the illegal activities.
WWF country head Mohamed Awer said the population of marine mammals, birds, reptiles and fish has been reduced almost by half globally in the last four decades.
The report indicates that the family of popular food fish that include Tuna, Mackerel and bonitosa have suffered record of dramatic loss of 74 per cent. These species are essential to commercial and subsistence fishing and thus global food supply.
The report also shows 49 per cent decline in all marine population between 1970 and 2012.
“We need to take action to preserve important ocean ecosystem around the world,” he said.
Globally, Awer said that the ocean contains key resources such as fish and habitats such as coral reefs and mangroves, which have been affected.
The report also raises the red flag over steep declines in coral reefs, mangroves and sea grasses that support fish species and provide valuable services to people.
“Over one third of fish tracked by the report rely on coral reefs and these species show a dangerous decline of 34 per cent between 1979 and 2010,” said Awer, basing his argument on the report.
He noted that by 2050 coral reefs could be lost across the globe as a result of climate change.
“About 25 per cent of all marine species living in coral reefs and about 850 million people directly benefit from the economic, social and cultural services; the loss of coral reef could be disastrous destruction with dramatic consequences on communities,” he noted.
Awer noted that climate change is causing the ocean to change more rapidly than at any other time in history.
“Threat to the ocean risk annual economic output of at least US$2.5 trillion and overall asset of at least $24 trillion as found by previous WWF study,” said the officer.
He said that increased protection of critical habitats could results in net benefits of between US$490 billion and US$920 billion accruing over the period of 2015 and 2050.
WWF director Jared Bosire said activities in the ocean have to be regulated because the fish supports economy of the country and livelihood of communities.
Fisheries deputy director Lucy Obungu, said they have submitted a fish management bill in Parliament to regulate oceans activities.