How dredging is costing fishermen livelihoods

Beach management units have lost almost all income they used to receive

In Summary

• Ongoing phase II of the project does not warrant any compensation, KPA has said

Dredging work at the Kenya Ports Authority, Mombasa, on March 15
EXPANSION: Dredging work at the Kenya Ports Authority, Mombasa, on March 15

Kwale resident Hamadi Mwakutengeza used to make two fishing trips daily. Today, destruction of seawaters has deprived the area of its once-abundant resources, dealing a direct blow to his incomes.

He says in the past, he would come ashore with as much as 70 kilos of fish per day but now he often only catches about two kilos. “Sometimes I can go for three days without getting anything at all,” laments the Tiwi Beach Management Unit (BMU) member.

He attributes the change of fortunes to the offshore sand harvesting by KPA, conducted for the construction of its phase II container terminal at Kipevu. The fisherman says these have affected the seawater quality, causing a decline in fish stocks.

His experience is reflected in the findings of the recent study commissioned by the Kenya Association of Hotel keepers and Caterers (KAHC) to look into the social and economic impact of dredging and sand harvesting.

“The annual revenue for some BMU members in Tiwi dropped by 95 per cent, which implies that they lost almost all income they used to receive,” the study states.

In Mombasa, fish seller Mwamadi Somo, who relies on supplies from fishermen operating in Likoni’s Shika Adabu beach, is also feeling the pinch. He says the low production experienced by fisherfolk has affected his business.

“Previously I would get 30-40kg of fish, but now I am getting 8-10kg,” Somo says.

Sometimes, he is forced to go as far as Gazi and up to Vanga in south coast in search of fish supplies.


KAHC coast region executive officer Sam Ikwaye says the organisation was compelled to do a scientific research to demonstrate the effects of dredging on society.

“In one of our previous engagements with government officials, we were told that science says there’s no damage to marine life and coral reefs. But if you meet fishermen today, they tell you they cannot catch enough fish,” Ikwaye said.

Wavuvi Association of Kenya chairperson Hamid Mohammed says Mombasa fishermen also continue to complain about the effects of dredging on their work.

“Just the other day, BMU leaders presented to me their complaints, and as the representative of fishermen, I am planning to engage KPA and the Transport ministry soon so we can have a discussion on the matter,” Hamid says.

He says while fishermen are reporting loss of their livelihoods each day linked to the dredging activities, none has received compensation.

On its part, KPA says only Mombasa fishermen who were affected during the first phase of the Mombasa Port Development Project in 2016 warranted compensation.

KPA’s head of corporate affairs Bernard Osero says in 2016, Mombasa fishermen were paid for loss of fishing grounds and landing sites occasioned by reclamation and extension of the turning basin at the harbour.

He says the ongoing phase II of the project does not warrant any compensation to fishermen, either in Mombasa or in Kwale. However, he added that for the second phase, the KPA has also spent Sh16 million as a goodwill gesture in Kwale county.

“The national environmental agency approved that sand harvesting was not going to affect fishermen, but they advised us to do a CSR intervention. The Sh16 million was distributed in the form of token cash to members of Nyari/Kikadini BMUs, it was not compensation,” Osero said.