Heavy siltation reduces fish stocks in Lake Turkana
- Commercial fishing activities in Lake Turkana face a precarious future due to depletion of stocks caused by severe siltation and intrusion of fish breeding grounds.
- The rush to share the fish is pushing the Turkana community’s Beach Management Units (BMUs) and their Ethiopian Merrile counterparts to venture into the deep waters of the lakes.
- Environmentalists and civil society groups in the region attribute the miseries resulting from commercial fishing activities in Lake Turkana to the construction of the Gibe III Dam built on the Omo River in Ethiopia.
Commercial fishing activities in Lake Turkana face a precarious future due to depletion of stocks caused by severe siltation and intrusion of fish breeding grounds.
The scramble for fish-sharing is pushing the Turkana community’s Beach Management Units (BMUs) and their Ethiopian Merrile counterparts to venture into the deep waters of lakes, mainly gulfs, in search of superior catches resulting in often fatal confrontations and loss of fishing gear.
Environmentalists and civil society groups in the region attribute the miseries resulting from commercial fishing activities in Lake Turkana to the construction of the Gibe III Dam built on the Omo River in Ethiopia, which provides 80 percent of the lake’s water. Turkana in Kenya.
The remaining water of the world’s largest alkaline lake is supplied by the Turkwell River.
The groups claim that the dam interfered with fish breeding grounds in the Omo River and subsequently led to declining fish stocks in Lake Turkana.
“The water volume of Lake Turkana, the source of livelihood for over 20,000 families through commercial fishing activities, is expected to decrease by 60% over the next five to seven years due to the construction of the Gibe Dam by the Ethiopian government, ”said Eliud Emeri, leader of the Turkana civil society group.
“The construction of the dam will interfere with marine life, especially the breeding grounds in the Todonyang region,” Emeri added.
The Omo River drains 90 percent of its water into Lake Turkana and the Ethiopian government is nearing completion of construction of the dam to generate electricity and for irrigation purposes.
But as the dam fuels development for Ethiopians, civil rights groups argue that thousands of indigenous families downstream who depend on fishing and pastoralism, among others, stand to lose.
“The Kenyan and Ethiopian governments must come up with an appropriate management plan to save Lake Turkana from extinction due to ecosystem interference in further development,” said John Mame, President of Impressa. BMU in Kalokool.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) has listed Lake Turkana National Parks as World Heritage Sites in Danger and called for urgent corrective action to save them from extinction .
The World Heritage Committee added Lake Turkana National Park to the list of 54 threatened sites, citing threats posed by the Gibe III dam in Ethiopia and the Kuraz sugar project.
Appropriate management plans
Lake Turkana, the largest desert lake in the world, was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1997.
According to the Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Lake Turkana has the potential to generate 3 billion shillings per year if appropriate management plans are put in place.
He, however, cites inference of fish breeding grounds, siltation, use of inappropriate fishing gear and poor handling processes as some of the factors that contribute to the decrease in fish quantity and generation. of income.
The Omo River basin is an important source of pasture for the Merille and Nyong’atom communities, but the transformation of several hectares of pasture into agricultural production due to technological revolutions is pushing pastoralists in Ethiopia to invade parts of the sub-region. North Turkana County for grazing and water.
“Most parts of the Omo Valley of Ethiopia are subject to massive agricultural production under irrigation system, which has resulted in a shortage of pasture for members of pastoral communities,” explained Mr. Eric Wanyonyi, longtime former sub-county commissioner.
He revealed that some members of the Merrile community have abandoned pastoralism and embrace agricultural production which they see as more lucrative, hence the land scramble for agro-pastoralism.
They grow crops such as maize, sorghum, millet, rice and fruits in addition to investing in commercial fishing activities in Lake Turkana.
According to the administrator, demographic pressure is at the origin of conflicts between the pastors of the two countries.
“The rush to expand land area for human settlements, agricultural production and grazing are some of the emerging issues that have resulted in protracted armed conflict between pastoralists,” Wanyonyi said.
However, fish remain the main source of food and income for the communities of Merile, Dasanach, Turkana and El Molo and the continued interference in the Omo River breeding area is a major blow to their socio-livelihoods. economic.
Most BMUs are already registering reduced catches, which affects their market share.
Fish from Lake Turkana is sold in most markets in Kenya, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda constituting the external market.
Poor management of the Kalokool fish processing plant and frequent attacks on fishermen by militias are other factors that environmentalists have cited as derailing fishing activities in Lake Turkana.
“The processing plant did not operate at its maximum capacity due to interference from politicians with special interests,” said Mr. Hosea Akoru, a fish merchant at Kalokool beach.
He called on the government to strengthen security along the shores of the lake to facilitate commercial fishing and increase income generation.
“Frequent attacks by militias have dissuaded potential investors from engaging in commercial fishing activities and improving income generation and livelihoods for residents,” Akoru added.
The government has, however, deployed additional Kenyan maritime police to patrol the lake following the recent signing of a peace accord between the Kenyan and Ethiopian leaders to contain the armed conflict between the Turkana and Merrile communities.
The maritime police are posted to patrol from Kalokool to Todonnyang ‘to counter attacks by armed militias and promote trade.
Fishing activities on the lake had declined considerably after the departure of most traders following recurrent attacks by looters from both communities.
The Turkana County government recently purchased equipment worth 51 million shillings and an offshore patrol motor boat to increase income generation from long-gone untapped fishing.
“Income generation from fish around Lake Turkana has increased from 12 million shillings to 16 million shillings while production has increased from 31 tonnes to 35 tonnes in the past six months,” Leah Napokol Epat said. , the treasurer of the Impressa group, one of the beneficiaries of the scheme.
On average, 15,000 kilograms of fish were exported to the Nairobi market and 6,000 to Kitale from Impressa beach alone last month.
Among the equipment acquired by the county government are 12,661 fishing nets and 15,000 floats which have been distributed to fishermen at the 30 landing BMUs along Lake Turkana.
The county is also planning to procure an additional Kerio-based motorboat and fiberglass boats to access deeper waters for large fish, as 97% of the lake’s fishermen are still limited to the outskirts.
The county government also released 31 million shillings for the revival of the Turkana Fishermen’s Cooperative Society which was active in the early 1990s.
The cooperative society will process fish, buy fish from its members and establish markets ready to boost the fishing industry in northern Kenya.
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