Concern over unregulated sale of fish denying Lake Victoria beaches revenue

A man carries fish at Usenge beach (PHOTO/ISAIAH GWENGI)

BONDO, KENYA: With only one latrine for use by more than 1,000 fishermen and traders who operate at Usenge beach daily, hygiene has remained a major concern.

Despite massive catch which attracts hundreds of thousand shillings, the development of the beach has remained elusive.

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This is the situation facing the more than 30 Beach Management Units (BMUs) in Siaya County, with stakeholders now blaming the unregulated sale of fish as the major cause.

According to Bondo sub-county BMU network Chairman Johannes Gaunye, the unregulated sale of fish has seen many fishermen sell their catch while in the lake or in undesignated beaches, a situation which denies the beaches revenue for development.

“The sale of fish in undesignated beaches does not only deny our beaches commission but also a big loss to boat owners,” explained Gaunye.

In Usenge for example, the beach loses about Sh4, 000 per day because of the fishermen who sell fish on other beaches.

Speaking to The Standard, John Ochieng, the Usenge BMU vice-chairman said that they charge Sh2 per kilogram of fish that lands at the beach.

“This is the money that we use to pay watchmen, fuel our patrol boat, and pay cleaners too. We also pay for other services like electricity,” says Ochieng, adding that the amount is not consistent depending on the daily catch.

He says that his beach is one of the biggest beaches and therefore serves as a collection centre, adding that they can register at least 100kgs of Nile Perch on a good day.

He adds, “We are not able to undertake development projects in our beaches and therefore rely on the county government-funded projects, which sometimes take too long.”

With about 200 boats landing at Kuoyo beach in Mageta island, the BMU is expected to get at least Sh5, 000 per day. But this has not been possible.

According to Kuoyo BMU secretary Alfred Ogutu, since there is no security provided by the government in the lake, they always use the small fee charged on fish that lands at the beach to facilitate security patrols.

It is against this backdrop that the leadership of beaches has now resolved to arrest and report any fisherman who will be selling fish at the beaches where they do not belong.

“We arrived at this decision to combat the rampant theft of fish across the region and we are also calling upon our legislators to come up with a policy that will help in regulating the sale of fish,” said Gaunye.

With beaches having their different by-laws, Gaunye says that as BMUs they are required to protect the aquatic environment and cooperate with authorities to that effect.

BMUs also possess certain law-enforcement powers concerning gear regulations and protection of fishing grounds.
But some fishermen who spoke to The Standard, said there are reasons as to why they are sometimes forced to sell fish in undesignated areas.

“Some beaches have higher charges of up to Sh20 per kilo of fish. It is a loss on our side for example if you have less than ten kilos of fish,” said fishermen who declined to be named.

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