NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 28 – Only 27 percent of the fish available for economic exploitation in Lake Turkana are being harvested, new research suggests.
A study conducted by the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KEMFRI) has revealed that out of the potential 2.3 million metric tonnes of fish available in Lake Turkana, only 88,000 tonnes is harvested annually.
This is despite the fact that the lake is the largest water body in the country at 7,560 km² but unfortunately the least studied lake in the region.
Senior Research Scientist Dr Oweke Ojwang blamed the under exploitation of the lake to poor fish harvesting habits, tools and lack of knowledge.
“Post landing losses for the fishermen could go up to 90 percent, which means losing nearly all they harvested in the lake, and this explains why you will see so much wasted fish by the side of the lake,” Dr Ojwang said.
The study further indicates that fresh catch fetches almost 80 percent better market prices than dried fish.
“A large scale trader’s mean income per trip is Sh51,436 which translates to nearly half a million annually,” Dr Ojwang added.
He said it’s with such potential in mind that KEMFRI has come up with a cheap and adaptable solar drier that could assist fishermen make maximum use of their catch from the lake.
“The solar system costs about Sh20,000 and could assist in reducing the fish mortality rate from 15 percent to less than one percent,” the scientist explained.
However, Dr Ojwang noted that other challenges like high parasite infestation rates for fish from the lake, poor infrastructure and the damming of water from River Omo (in Ethiopia) that feeds the lake, further accelerates the problem.
Speaking after receiving the report, Fisheries Minister Paul Otuoma asked all interested parties to come up with a master plan to better exploit the potential of Lake Turkana.
The Minister, who had invited his counterparts from the region, recommended that the plan be developed quickly as it could assist in tackling the issue of food insecurity currently facing the country.
“A plan will be important so that when we are looking for partners, then we are looking at programs which can be funded to achieve our objective of fully exploiting this lake,” said Mr Otuoma.
He revealed that already there are some programs in place which could be incorporated in the master plan, to be effectively used by the government.
The research institute was presenting a report to ministers from the region to rally them behind a Sh2 million workshop to educate individuals in the area on the same.