Lack of market hampering expansion of fishing sector in Lamu

Lamu fisheries County Director Salim Bunu inspecting the fish caught during Lamu annual fishing competition. PHOTO: NATASHA NEMA.

Lamu, KENYA: Lack of a common fish market for Lamu fishermen is hampering the expansion of the fishing sector.

The fishermen have also cited poor transport as among the major reasons why they continue to incur millions in losses.

Lamu East sub-county is especially considered a hub for fishing since a majority of the fisherfolk hail from there.

Speaking when they met in Lamu on Thursday, the fishermen said the unpredictable state of the Kiunga-Hindi road was to blame for the difficult transportation of fish from Lamu East to the rest of the county and even outside.

The road is prone to IED attacks that are normally launched by Al shabaab militants targeting security vehicles.

The road is the only connection between Lamu East and the rest of Lamu County on land while the other option is via water which the fishermen say is extremely expensive and they cant afford it.

As such, the fishermen said they are apprehensive of using the road.

They said almost 70% of their catch goes bad while en route to far-flung markets in Malindi and Mombasa due to the bad roads and the fact that they cant sell their fish internally for lack of better markets.

The fishermen who are mostly from Kiunga, Ishakani, Kizingitini, Faza and Pate islands want the government to establish a common fish market for them to be able to sell their produce locally.

Their spokesperson Mohamed Shosti expressed optimism that their fortunes and the county’s economy are bound to change if and when the issue of the bad roads and market is addressed.

“Something must be done about the Hindi-Kiunga road. We have lost so much because we cant use that road. We are scared of the IED attacks that have previously happened there. Even our suppliers from Malindi and Mombasa no longer want to send their lorries here for fear that they could run over an IED. It’s a hassle for us to find a vehicle willing to transport our fish. As such, we lose most of it en route,” said Shosti.

The lauded the county government for establishing Ice plants in Kizingitini and Kiunga areas but said more needed to be done.

They appealed to the county government to help them scout for reliable fish markets in other counties and countries as well.

The fishermen also complained of the invasion of their local fish markets by Somali fishermen who they accused of dwindling their markets by selling at ridiculously low prices and leaving them with no customers at the end of the day.

Over 90 percent of Lamu locals either directly or indirectly rely on fishing for survival.