Alarmed by the growing number of fish cages in Lake Victoria, the county assembly has now drafted a Bill to help regulate the fisheries sector.
According to the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, 2019, no person shall introduce any new fishing vessel within the county waters without a valid registration.
The Bill is sponsored by the chairman of the Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Committee John Atieno.
According to Speaker Elisha Oraro, a certificate of registration and a licence will be issued to new investors who want to put up fish cages in the lake.
“All vessels operating in Lake Victoria from the Kisumu side will have to be dully registered and licenced,” Oraro disclosed. This is because Lake Victoria’s fish catch has been on the decline.
The fisheries sector is key to the county’s growth and the new Bill seeks to, among others, support restoration of fish stocks to improve the residents’ healthy diets.
Lake Victoria’s capture fishery has gradually been on the decline for over a decade due to over-fishing, ecosystem degradation, environmental pollution and climate change.
The speaker said aquaculture, through its value chain linkages has become an important pillar for rural livelihoods as the population grows. Over the years, pond-based fish farming has dominated the aquaculture sector, while cage and pen culture systems are relatively new in the fish market.
Part of the radical proposals contained in the Bill is a fine of up to Sh10, 000 or imprisonment of up to one year if found in breach of fishing regulations.
“A fishing vessel licence shall unless revoked or suspended expire on June 30 of each financial year in which it was issued,” the Bill reads in part.
It says further that no person other than persons fishing for their own consumption shall catch fish or assist in catching fish in Kisumu County waters without a valid licence.
The Bill proposes that the county executive member for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries should by order publish in a Gazette notice the quantity of fish for consumption or sale.
“Each licence issued under this Act shall be valid for such species of fish, type of fishing gear, method of fishing and area of fishing prescribed,” Oraro explained.
The regulations are also meant to ensure that fisheries management control fishing pressure so that fish are not harvested faster than they can reproduce.
But no fisherman shall be allowed to use any explosives, poisonous or noxious substances or electric shock devices for killing, stunning or disabling fish, according to the Bill.
“Any person found guilty of doing so will be liable to two years imprisonment and a fine of up to Sh150, 000,” the Bill reads. The radical measures are aimed at curbing the fast-growing floating cage system, which is now the dominant technology used for fish farming in Kisumu and Siaya County.
The Bill seeks to ensure that regular patrols are carried out in the lake to enforce the regulations, which includes ensuring that all those who ply the waters use safety jackets.
Nobody, according to the new measures, will be allowed to sail in the waters without wearing a life jacket whether on a fishing expedition or sporting activity.