By Faith Atieno

To achieve aqua-food sustainability and deal with issues such as overfishing, IUU fishing and the related conflicts in inland fisheries, implementation of science, technology and innovation (STI) pathways in the Lake Victoria Basin is crucial, expert says.

Prof John Mugabe, Professor of Science and Innovation Policy at the Graduate School of Technology Management (GSTM), University of Pretoria, said during the 2nd Calestous Juma Legacy Seminar on Steering STI to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

According to Prof. Mugabe, there has been a considerable increase in overfishing and illegal unregulated unreported (IUU) fishing over the years causing conflicts in the fisheries over theft and destruction of fishing gears which has escalated to the point where fishers carry weapons like catapults and clubs.

Findings from a study carried out from focused group discussion among the Lake Victoria fisheries actors including fishers, research institutes, regulatory bodies, among others, mentioned that this is caused by a decline of indigenous fish stock like Tilapia and catfish, increased fishers’ population, weak regulatory system and technological development like use of modern fishing gear among others.

In an effort to achieve SDG 14.4 [effective regulation of overfishing and IUU] and SDG 16 [peace, justice and strong institutions] in the Kenyan Lake Victoria basin, the professor said dominant innovation approaches such as strengthening Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) to reduce IUU fishing and overfishing in the lake and, cage culture and pond fishing farming pathways- both to reduce pressure on inland capture fisheries- need to be considered.

“MCS, pond fishing and cage fishing should be deliberately steered as pathways to SDG 14 and 16 through a holistic innovation policy framework with policy mixes that encompass social, economic and ecological sustainable goals,” he underscored in his recommendation.

Prof.Mugabe highlighted that the country’s existing top-down policies and programs do not deliver innovations at the local levels and therefore a different approach should be considered to ensure the locals fully benefit from the industry.

“Enhancing the involvement of local people in embedding and implementation of the locally designed policy, regulation, programs and innovations is vital,” he said.

According to Prof. Mugabe, the pathways still encounter some limitations such as old technologies that are less integrated with other economies in the region and frequent floods which face pond fish farming; while cage fish farming is increasingly being controlled by politicians and those with connections to the county governments thus making costs of entry relatively high for low income fishers. Thus, there is a continued risk on the basin’s economic potential.