Q&A with Fisheries PS

The State Department for Fisheries, Aquaculture and Blue Economy is one of the institutions through which the Government is directly driving one of the key components of its Big Four Agenda, namely Food Security. In this Question and Answer extract, the State Department’s Principal Secretary, Prof Micheni Japheth Ntiba talks to MyGov’s Michael Okidi on a wide range of fisheries issues, including an International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) Scientific Committee meeting starting this week in Nairobi.

Q: Briefly tell us the mandate of the State Department for Fisheries

A: The motivation for State Department for Fisheries, Aquaculture and the Blue Economy is drawn from the Kenya Constitution 2010. At the policy level the Fisheries Management and Development Act 2016 provides for conservation, management and development of fisheries and other aquatic resources to enhance the livelihood of communities dependent on fishing. Fishing externalities such as bycatch of whales and other non – target fish species negate conservation measures in other national and international related laws, hence fishing for mammals is prohibited and our marine waters are a whale sanctuary. To protect other non- target species, fisheries management plans are in line with the ecosystem approach.

Q: How does your mandate resonate with the Government’s Big4 Agenda?

A: Fisheries are important food sources for Kenyans and contribute to livelihoods in local areas such as Lake Turkana, Lake Victoria and coastal communities. They are crucial to realization of the Big 4 Agenda in the pillar of food security and also in industrialization pillar where cottage industry, development of deep sea fishing capacity can make a big contribution.

Kenyan fishermen have often been caught up in cross border fishing conflicts, especially on Lake Victoria. What role is your State Department playing to resolve these conflicts?

It is true that our fishermen have experienced trans-boundary conflicts, not just in Lake Victoria but also in Lake Turkana and at the coast. These stem from the complexities of marine environments where boundaries are not as apparent as, say, on land. There are mechanisms to resolve these through Regional Fisheries management Bodies (RFMOS) such as Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO) a constituent body of East African Community (EAC) and Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) just to name a few.

Q: How is the Government coping with the threat of illegal fishing in our lakes and the sea?

A: The issue of illegal fishing in Kenyan fishery waters, be it Lakes, Rivers and the Maritime Zones is a challenge. This challenge is now the focus of international attention and mechanisms. At the national level you are aware our President Commissioned PV Doria and launched the coast guard which will work closely with State Department for Fisheries to curb this menace. We are on the Fish- I Africa platform for due diligence on vessels in the deep sea to make sure that vessels that have committed fishing crimes elsewhere are not licensed to fish in our waters. In Lake Victoria, there is a regional plan of action under LVFO while nationally plans are underway to strengthen multi-agency collaboration and The Fisheries Management and Development Act (FMDA), has imposed stiffer penalties for fisheries infractions.

Q: We have had an upsurge in the growth of fish farming in various parts of the country. How do you rate this growth in terms of contribution to the national fishing industry?

A: This was a success story from the Economic Stimulus Program (ESP) which made fish farming a house hold name. It increased fish production from 4,000 metric tons in 2009 to 21,000 metric tons currently. There were challenges arising from incentivized demand but these will be addressed through the recently launched Aquaculture Business Development Program (ABDP), whose objective is to increase income, food security and nutritional status of wider communities of poor rural households involved in aquaculture in targeted Counties initially and expanded in phase II. Promotion of sustainable fish farming in cages within Lake Victoria has yielded positive results and will be expanded to other water bodies and the Indian Ocean. Further, to enhance the training of fish farmers, a curriculum for fish farm technicians’ training has been approved by the Curriculum Development Assessment and Certification Council (CDACC) and may be adopted by any TVETA approved institution for teaching fish farming.
The government instituted tax waiver for equipment used in imported agricultural equipment (e.g. pond liners, netting material etc). Commercial fish farming enterprises have benefitted from this facility.

Q: There have recently been complaints from industry stakeholders over reported influx of Chinese fish imports into the country. Are these imports subjected to any regulatory measures, and do they pose any threats to the national fishing industry?

A: All fish imports including those emanating from China are subjected to regulatory pre- import measures under Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) regulations. In the short term while per capita fish consumption is still at 4Kg per person per year there is no threat. However, in the medium to long term the gains from fish farming are likely to reduce imports

Q: Tell us about Kenya’s Blue Economy and our level of preparedness to fully exploit its potential.

A: The Blue Economy concept covers Kenya’s fishery waters in oceans, seas, coasts, lakes, rivers including aquatic spaces. This concept in multi –dimensional and includes underground water. It also comprises of productive sectors such as fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, transport, shipbuilding, energy, bio prospecting, underwater mining and a host of other related activities. The level of preparedness is high, because the institutions dealing with these aspects are in place. What is required is a re-orientation of integrative mechanisms for holistic planning and implementation of blue economic development agenda. This is already in place through the Blue Economy implementation committee and the successful hosting of the Blue Economy Conference by Kenya in 2017.

Q: Please, briefly tell us about your State Department’s role in conservation of big sea species like the whale?

A: The State Department for Fisheries, Aquaculture and The Blue Economy is actively involved in conservation of whales which are mammals, mainly due to externalities emanating from fishing operations such as bycatch and entanglement. Other externalities are from ship strikes and marine pollution and in these the department is cooperating with other government agencies. The department is also an active participant in the international Whaling Commission (IWC) and is implementing the by catch Mitigation Imitative (BMI) as well as building capacity to increase survival of entangled whales.

Q: What is the International Whaling Commission (IWC)?
A: The IWC was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was signed in Washington DC on 2nd December 1946. The preamble to the Convention states that its purpose is to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry. It is the global body charged with the conservation of whales and the management of whaling. The IWC currently has 89 Contracting member governments from countries all over the world as at 7th January 2019 and it meets every two years. The Commission has a membership of 89. The Commission’s role has expanded since its establishment in 1946.

In addition to regulation of whaling, today’s IWC works to address a wide range of conservation issues including bycatch and entanglement, ocean noise, pollution and debris, collision between whales and ships, and sustainable whale watching.

An integral part of the Convention is its legally binding ‘Schedule.’ The Schedule sets out specific measures that the IWC has collectively decided are necessary in order to regulate whaling and conserve whale stocks.

Q: What measures are contained in the Schedule to regulate whaling and conserve whale stocks?

A: These measures include:
• Catch limits (which may be zero as is the case with commercial whaling) by species and area;
• Designating specified areas as whale sanctuaries;
• Protection of calves and females accompanied by calves; and,
• Restrictions on hunting methods.

Unlike the Convention, the Schedule can be amended and updated when the Commission meets (a change requires at least three quarters majority agreement). There are a number of reasons why changes to the Schedule may be necessary. These include new information from the Scientific Committee, and variations in the requirements of aboriginal subsistence whalers.

Q: How does IWC operate?

A: The work of the Commission is divided across six committees which in turn are comprised of a series of sub-groups. Some of these sub-groups are long term, standing committees and some are established to complete a specific piece of work. The groups are chaired by Commissioners, other members of national delegations or subject matter experts from within the wider IWC community. One of the longest and well-established committees is the Scientific Committee.

Q: What is the Scientific Committee?

A: An important feature of the Convention is the emphasis it places on scientific advice. The Convention requires that amendments to the Schedule ‘shall be based on scientific findings’. To this end, the Commission has established a Scientific Committee.

Q: What is the role of the Scientific Committee?

A: IWC Scientific Committee (SC) is responsible for scientific investigation of cetaceans and their environment, leading to assessment of the status of stocks and the impact of direct catches and any other human – induced mortality or threats upon them and provides conservation and management advice on stocks and the regulation/mitigation of lethal and non-lethal human activities. This can be defined in the following terms for SC to:
• Encourage, recommend, or if necessary organize studies and investigations related to whales and whaling (convention Article IV. 1 (a))
• Collect and analyze statistical information concerning the current condition and trend of whale stocks and the effect of whaling activities on the them (Article IV.1 (b);
• Study, appraise, and disseminate information concerning methods of maintaining and increasing population of whale stocks (Article IV.1(b);
• Provide scientific findings on which amendments to the Schedule shall be based to carry out the objectives of the Convention and to provide for conservation, development and optimum utilization of the whale resources (Article V.2 (a) and (b));
• Review current threats and methods to mitigate them in order to maintain populations at viable levels (Rule of Procedure M.4);
• Provide conservation and management advice (Rule of Procedure M.4);
• Receive, review and comment on Special Permits issues for scientific research (Article VIII.3 and Schedule paragraph 30);
• Review research programs of Contracting Government and other bodies (Rule of Procedure M.4)

The scientific committee is established in accordance with the Commission’s rule of procedure M.1, has the general terms of reference defined in Rule of Procedure M.4
The Committee operates 17 Sub groups.

Q: When and where is the next meeting of the SC?

A: Kenya has the honor to host the next scientific committee SC 68A meeting in Nairobi from 7-23 May 2019.

Q: What will be the agenda of this meeting, and what are the expected outcomes?

A: The meeting agenda is scientific review of status of whales and the outcome is management of advice to the meeting of the commission later in the year. It will receive and review country reports as well reports from the committees.

Q: The IWC’s tray seems quite full! Please tell us the other activities planned under the IWC calendar this year, when they will be held, and where.

A: In addition, the following activities are planned;
Whale bycatch workshop from 8-9th May, 2019
Public Lecture on 16th May: International Whaling Commission (IWC) and how it works; and Entanglement Training from 23rd- 24th May 2019