After sucessfully launching a satelite based system of monitor illegal fishing in West Africa, World Wildlife Fund now says it is considering introducing the technology in East Africa which is equally reeling from fish poaching that has threatened marine and oceanic fish stock, a move that could help Kenya stem fish poaching that costs the economy over Sh2billion annually .
The simple, effective and inexpensive technology tool uses satellite data with the aim to monitor global fisheries activities and curb illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices, one of the biggest impediments to achieving sustainable fisheries. Using the “Automatic Identification System” (AIS) introduced by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in December 2000 for safety reasons, WWF says the AIS data will enable governments and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations to retrace the routes and fishing activities of vessels all over the world, improving sustainable fisheries management in national waters, and on the high seas, by revealing where illegal fishing activities could potentially be taking place.
The low cost technology could come as a sigh of relief to Kenya which has beens struggling to contain the rampant illegal fishing especially in its coastal areas which has robbed thousands of local fishers of their livelihoods through dwindling stocks. The government alive to this fact announced plans to install a vessel monitoring system to help combat illegal foreign trawler fishing. The government also imposed a ban on trawling in 2006 to protect the artisanal sector. However no tangible results have been recorded with the fisheries ministry last year changing tact to unveil a special squad to further contain the growing trade. Dubbed Coast Guard, the unit has been trained and equipped to deal with illegal fishermen, who invade the country's territorial waters.
“But that is as far as it goes, these days illegal fishing has gone high tech which is why the monitoring devices like the one being offered by WWF is our best bet because it gives us real time and accurate daya,”sasa Mwanzo Karisa from Kenya Maritime Authority.
The WWF data was evaluated for the last one and a half years and found out it had become possible to retrace the routes and activities of fishing vessels, including vessels that are suspected of illegal fishing.
“We wanted to find out what is really happening out there when vessels are fishing and trans-shipping on the high seas”, says Alfred Schumm, Leader of WWF´s Smart Fishing Initiative. “After all, illegal and uncontrolled fishing is a hard nut to crack - it causes ecological and economic damage worldwide that affects all of us; fishing communities, fishing companies, governments, buyers and consumers.”
WWF urges countries like Kenya and national governments flagging fishing vessels to adopt as soon as possible mandatory installation of the AIS system on all fishing vessels under their flag, in addition to monitoring and control measures they have in place.
“To bring about credible changes that will enhance sustainable fisheries practices, governments need to ensure their rules are complied with, hence all fishing vessels should have installed the AIS system at once and keep it in operation day and night, ” commented Schumm.
Kenya exports most of its fish to the European market,about 60 percent, which is the largest consumer of fish in the world, accounting for around 40 per cent of global imports. However the fish exporters have been facing an export hurdle Illegal with the introduction of the Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) regulation which has put strict conditions on countries that want to maintain access to the trading bloc’s market. According to the regulation, the exporters have to get a validated catch certificate that shows that the traders have complied to the safe fishing rule.
Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter
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