Fishing is an important economic activity and a major source of livelihood. The sector supports about 80,000 people directly and about 800,000 indirectly. The fisheries subsector has the potential to contribute significantly to the national economy through employment creation, forex earnings, poverty reduction and food security. Kenya has about 1.4 billion hectares of potential fish farming areas, which translates to about 11 million metric tonnes of fish worth Kshs750 billion ($88 billion) annually. However, three years ago, the country was producing 4,220 metric tonnes of fish, while only 772 ha was under aquaculture.
To develop fisheries, the Government, through the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) introduced in the financial year 2009/2010, allocated Kshs3 billion ($352.9 million) to the subsector for construction of 200 fish farming ponds in 140 constituencies Further, the Government adopted a collaborative strategy to expedite commercial aquaculture growth, involving both public and private sectors under Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). In 2011, fish harvests increased by 5.8 per cent to 149,000 tonnes from 140,800 tonnes in 2010. Fresh water increased by 6.2 per cent to 140,000 tonnes from 132,300 tonnes in 2010. The increase was mainly attributed to increase in fish landed from fish farming and Lake Turkana. Production from fish farming increased from 12.2 metric tonnes in 2010 to 19.3 metric tonnes in 2011, mainly as a result of ESP. Some 27,391 fish ponds were constructed and stocked with over 23.5 million fingerlings under the programme, increasing the area under aquaculture to 14,076 hectares in 2011.
Similarly, fish landed from Lake Turkana increased to 7,300 tonnes in 2011 from 6,400 tonnes in 2010. Earnings from fish landings rose from Kshs15.4 billion ($185.2 million) in 2010 to Kshs16.7 billion ($196 ,illion) in 2011. The value of fresh water fish increased from KShs14.5 billion ($171.4 million) in 2010 to KShs15.8 billion ($186.4 million) in 2011, accounting for 94.9 per cent of the total revenue generated from the fisheries sub-sector in 2011. The average price for freshwater and marine fish has grown consistently over the past five years. Average price per tonne of fresh water fish increased from Kshs109,900 ($1,292) in 2010 to Kshs112,700 (1,326) in 2011, while that of marine fish increased from Kshs84,000 ($998.8) in 2010 to Kshs84,900 in 2011.
The favourable prices were attributed to increased demand for fish in both domestic and export markets. Aquaculture production has created direct employment for over 28,000 fish farmers, short-term employment for over 280,000 youths and indirect employment for over 140,000 other Kenyans. It has also created a national short-term demand of 28 million certified tilapia/cat fish fingerlings and 14,000 tonnes of specified and formulated fish feeds. The Ministry was expected to digitise all ponds countrywide, and establish 80 mini-processing and cold storage facilities. The first six aqua shops in western Kenya were open to fish farmers in Funyula, Nambomboto, and Bukiri shopping centres in Samia, Ahero, Katito and Oboch in Nyakach. The outlets make available a wide range of affordable, quality-assured aquaculture products and services, including advice and inputs.