One year on, Lamu fishermen dissatisfied with lifting of night ban

Lamu fishermen on a fishing boat , 9 fishermen have been arrested in the ongoing Michuki rules crackdown PHOTO COURTESY

Lamu, KENYA: Lamu fishermen are shocked that the night fishing ban is still in force, one year after the national government supposedly announced it had been lifted.

The ban is especially concentrated in Lamu East areas like Kiunga, Ishakani, Madina, Mkokoni, Kiwayu and its environs which are known to have a high population of fishermen.

In May last year, the national government announced that ban which had lasted close to seven years having been imposed in 2011 had finally been lifted much to the relief of the over 7000 fishermen in the region.

However, theirs was a shortlived relief as they have never been allowed to conduct fishing at night since that announcement was made.

Speaking when they converged in Lamu town on Tuesday, the fishermen say they feel shortchanged and lied to by the national government.

“Security officers continue to arrest and harass us whenever we try venturing into the Indian Ocean to fish at night. They warn us to stay out and never set foot on the Ocean at night. We don’t even understand whats going on,” said Mohamed Bahero, a fisherman from Kiunga.

Its worth noting that almost 90% of the population depend on fishing.

The ban has left many reeling in poverty.

Bahero says the night ban is responsible for the dwindling of the once vibrant fishing sector which currently lies at 25%.

“The government says it has lifted the ban yet we can’t still go out fishing at night. Security officers don’t want to hear anything we say. They arrest us and tell us they aren’t aware of the ban being lifted. They tell us we are trespassing and committing offense fishing at night. Basically, there is no night fishing and we want to know why yet the ban was supposedly lifted,” said Bahero.

The fishermen argue that they cant much as much catch during daytime as they would have made at night when more favorable to conduct the trade.

“Fishing in the afternoon is triple the effort you make when you do it at night. When there is light, there is not much catch as the fish keep migrating further and further away but at night, things are easier and more fulfilling. As it is right now, fishing is doing so badly. The government needs to look into this matter and help us,” said Ahmed Islam, another fisherman from Ishakani border village told Baraka FM.

Islam says those who try to venture out to fish at night are arrested and treated like Al Shabaab suspects.

He wonders why that’s the case yet the ban was lifted and he said he wants the government to come clean and explain why the situation is so.

“They arrest us and grill us like terrorists. You are asked why you are trying to go to Somalia or why you are dressed in a certain manner. It’s unfair. We are just fishermen who need to work at night when it’s more favorable for us,” said Islam.

The fishermen say that even while armed with the recently launched Mvuvi cards which are apparently supposed to help track all their movements and activities while at sea, they are still prohibited from fishing at night.

The Mvuvi Card was launched early this year and is expected to identify all fishermen in the affected areas and also be used as a permit to allow them to carry on with fishing at any given time.

Lamu Fishermen  Association Chair Mohamed Somo is now accusing the government of playing mind games and only lifting the ban on ‘camera’ and just for show when they actually had no plan of doing so.

“It’s obvious that the announcement and the real ban are two different things that still exist. I can attest that fishermen in Lamu have not been allowed to fish at night. We demand to know why,” said Somo.

Contacted, however, Lamu County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri who is also the Director of the Linda Boni Security operation insists that the night fishing ban has been lifted.

Kanyiri also asked all fishermen to comply with the officers whenever they are required to so as to make it easier for them to be allowed to fish at sea at night.

“It’s true.  The ban was lifted and remains so. The only thing is that there are certain conditions fishermen need to meet before being allowed to go fishing at night. I suspect those complaining are among the lot that has refused to adhere to this. Security of this region is paramount and people must learn to comply with all directives in that line,” said Kanyiri.