Fish exports dropped 35 per cent last year compared with 2016 following the closure of a tuna plant and three Nile Perch processors, which continues to take a toll on output.
Data from the Department of Fisheries indicate earnings dropped from Sh3.1 billion realised in 2016 to Sh2 billion last year.
Kenya exported 3,502 tonne in 2017, a decline from 4,686 in 2016, mainly to Europe.
“It is notable that the closure of three Nile Perch processing plants in 2016 had serious impact on the industry. This was further compounded by the closure of one tuna processing plant in Mombasa. Overall, the volumes of exports drastically reduced,” says the department.
Two of the Nile Perch factories were located in Kisumu and one in Nairobi.
The factories were shut down following a reduction of fish that saw them operate below capacity. Also the closure of Imperial Bank early 2016 affected their operations as some were conducting their transaction with the troubled lender.
Kenya mainly exports frozen Nile Perch, tuna, octopus, frozen whole tilapia and lobsters among other types caught in the lake and the ocean.
Under the Exclusive Economic Zones, local fishermen are allowed to fish up to 200 nautical miles from the Kenyan shores, but they are operating at below five nautical miles for lack of appropriate fishing gear to explore the deep sea waters.
The country has a large exclusive fishing zone with potential of producing 300,000 tonnes of fish valued at about Sh75 billion annually. However, it is yet to utilise the opportunity optimally.
This has given room to developed nations who have advanced gears to explore Kenya’s fishing potential. Illegal fishermen are also using the opportunity to exploit Kenya’s resources.
The country put in place a new fisheries law — which took effect in July, 2016- aimed at curbing illegal fishing.
The law imposes a fine of Sh50 million on any person engaging in illegal fishing within Kenya’s territorial waters.
Kenya acquired a Sh3.6 billion ship last year to patrol its Indian Ocean territory as it steps up the campaign against illegal fishing, which has seen it lose up to Sh10 billion every year.