Fishermen along the Kenyan coast are struggling to make ends meet due to the fishing restrictions imposed by the government five months ago.

The government ordered fishermen not to cross into Somalia waters owing to the security operation against Al-Shabaab by the Kenya Defence Forces.

Over 70 per cent of the local population relies on the sector but the restriction imposed by the military in October last year has left many without a meaningful income.

Fishermen interviewed by the Sunday Nation said they have lost millions of shillings worth of business and urged the government to consider lifting the ban to allow them fish in high seas now that Kenya’s territorial waters were under the Navy.

But Defence minister Yusuf Haji told the Sunday Nation in an interview that the ban would only be reviewed once the security situation in Somalia stabilises.

“We have told fishermen to register when leaving out for their activities because of their security. The situation will remain the same until further notice, he said.

The ban mainly targeted areas between Lamu Island and Kiunga, which have abundant fish stocks and are relied upon to supply many coastal towns and tourist hotels.

“We have severely been hit since October. Fishing activities go on only during the day where a single fisherman can make between 50 kg and 200 kg of fish, thus making it hard to meet the growing demand, said Mr Ahmed Islam Nassir, a fish dealer in Kiunga town.
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Mr Nassir said the fall in production has adversely affected business to an extent that dealers are forced to spend days in the border town before purchasing fish to supply markets in Mombasa and Malindi among other towns in the region.

“In the past, a fisherman who went out with his fishing boat at night would return in the morning with between 500 kg and one tonne of fish and would sell immediately to dealers waiting for fresh fish, he said.

Mr Badi Athman, a fish monger on Lamu island, said specific fish species only found in the high seas are hard to find in the market.

“We are only trading on fish caught from shallow waters. Lobsters, crabs and prawns, which are in high demand, have disappeared, he said.

Kiunga, with 600 registered fishermen, produces 500 metric tonnes of fish every year, according to Lamu district fisheries officer Simon Komu.

Rasini Fishermen’s Co-operative Society chairman Mohammed Ali Mohammed said the security measures the government has taken as it wages a military campaign against Al-Shabaab have raised fish prices by almost 50 per cent due to limited supply.

A kilo of fish is now selling at Sh280 compared to between Sh180 and Sh200 before the Operation Linda Nchi started.