By Peter Oliver Ochieng

The Kenyan government is developing a national integrated maritime policy aimed at safeguarding the country’s interests in the Blue Economy sector.

Speaking in Kisumu, about 400km from Kenya’s Capital Nairobi, during the official opening of the International Aquatic Resources and Blue Economy Conference (ARBEC), Salim Mvurya, the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Mining, Blue Economy and Maritime Affairs said the policy which will be finalized soon, will address environmental, social and economic sustainability of the sector.

“To strengthen sustainable utilization of its blue economy resources for shared prosperity, the government of Kenya has established frameworks to oversee the commercialization of the priority sectors. The state department of maritime and shipping is leading the development of a National Integrated Maritime Policy, while the Kenya Coast Guard Service is strengthening maritime domain awareness through increased monitoring and surveillance in our territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (ECZ),” he said.

CS Mvurya at the conference in Kisumu

The Cabinet Secretary noted that over the past decade, global interest in the Blue Economy has been growing rapidly, as more and more nations acknowledge and appreciate the importance of aquatic space as repositories for tremendous wealth.

“African States, Kenya included have increasingly begun to appreciate the importance and contribution of their aquatic resources to their collective and individual aspirations for sustainable development,” Mvurya said.

He noted that recently, as a result of climate change, the country experienced sporadic cases of fish kills in cages in Lake Victoria, occasioning losses of over 3, 000 tons of fish with a market value of close to Ksh. 1 billion (about USD 10 million), affecting livelihoods of about 848 households.

“Similar cases of fish kill not just in cages but also in the wild, have been reported in many aquatic systems across the world and scientific findings have revolved around low oxygen, nutrients enrichment due to pollution, lake turnover or upwelling and rapid changes in temperatures due to climate change, wind and wave patterns as causal factors,” added the Cabinet Secretary.

He said going forward, the government will work closely with insurance firms to protect cage fish farmers against losses in the future.

Participants at the conference

On his part, Dr. Mathews Ochieng Owili, the Kisumu County Deputy Governor said the issue of polluting Lake Victoria cannot be looked into, in isolation. “We have rivers that are terminating here, all the way from the Mau, meaning that activities in the Mau and elsewhere will impact the life of the Lake. So we must look at it, not in isolation, but considering the whole Lake ecosystem,” he said.

“We must think about habitat destruction; we must think about climate change and of course, there’s this small matter of the carrying capacity of our ecosystems.”

The four-day Aquatic Research and Blue Economy Conference in Kisumu is being hosted by the Kenya Marine and Research Institute (KMFRI), under the theme, “Aquatic resources for sustainable future and blue economy prosperity.”

It is the second conference of its kind after the first one was held in Nairobi, in 2018. Representatives from over 35 Counties, including the United Kingdom (UK), United States of America (USA), Senegal, Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania are in attendance.