KISUMU, KENYA: The Ministry of Fisheries will provide all 14,000 water vessels in Lake Victoria with number plates from next month.
In a bid to strengthen monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) of the lake, the ministry intends to embark on aggressive registration of fishing boats.
Kenya Fisheries Officer Robert Wanyama said this will help them address the issue of illegal fishing gears.
“We have realised that there is need to target boat owners. This is why we want to capture details of the boat owners and boat details so that they are registered and provided with number plates,” he said.
He said its high time all boats have proper identity, with information of where the boat operates, which part of the lake they target fish, the type of fishing gear used, among other specifications.
“This will be useful for us in the long run. It will help us do MCS. We will be able to control how fishing is done by monitoring if they are using the right fishing gears,” Wanyama said.
He added,” If we get a boat in the lake doing illegal fishing, all we have to document is the number plate which we will use to trace it and follow up later. We don’t have to arrest it there and then.”
He said the registration will help in combating poor fishing practices, since the boat owners will be called in case their boats have a problem.
They are also working on programme that will enable them capture the boats on camera while on water.
“If a boat is found involved in illegal fishing, we will trace and track it to the owner. Just like the vehicle transport system, we will ask them to be in groups. If a boat in the group flouts the rules, then we will withdraw their licenses. It is easier than chasing after nets,” he said
The ministry will start capturing the details and number plating in early April, and officially roll out the new system in August.
They are currently in talks with Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to plan how the number plates will look like. The licensing will be annual, and renewal will be out of merit.
“The licenses will be renewed depending on how the boats have met the required standards. In the new law, penalties for illegal fishing is higher than the current ones. Fishers should take these changes seriously,” Wanyama said.