February 17, 2024

Kemfri Embrace New Technology of Marine Cage Farming In Kwale

Circular cages as being used by Kwale fish farmers. (Photo By Carolyne Katana)

By Caroline Katana

Email, thecoastnewspaper@gmail.com

Marine cage farming is yet to be adopted fully along the Kenyan Coast from Vanga to Kiunga in Kwale and Lamu counties respectively in the last one decade.

These experimental cage cultures, developed by Kenya Marine Fisheries and Research Institute (KEMFRI), are using wooden square and rectangular cages for fishing purposes, but have been found to be less durable lasting for one and half to two years.

This challenge has drawn the attention of the Japanese government through JICA to partner with KMFRI through the department for blue economy and fisheries to develop new technology of introducing high density polyethylene plastics cages that are circular and of commercial size of 10 meter diameter.

JICA, on its part, has engaged engineers from Philippine where cage culture has progressed well.

Speaking at Kijiweni port in Kwale, assistant director marine aquaculture at KEMFRI Dr.David Mirera, said the circular cages were deployed at at port after a research with good findings.

“In the last three weeks, engineers have been working with KMFRI technical staff to fabricate the cage at this area of Kijiweni and ready to be stocked with fish,” Dr.Mirera said.

According to the assistant director one of such cages can hold 8,000 rabbit fish or 15,000 milk fish in one culture cycle thus enabling 10 tonnes of fish harvest twice a year.

“The government suggested that KEMFRI should partner with JICA in implementing this new technology because they have skilled divers, technologists, scientists and marine pilots who can coordinate and ensure the project is successful. This technology will ensure commercial cages farming benefits the country and East Africa region,” Dr.Mirera added.

He says the technology is a game changer in the mariculture industry along Kenya’s coast that is climate change resilient.

To support the project, KMFRI will intervention and also provide two similar cages to be deployed there making a total of three cages with a capacity to hold 21,000 fish at one go.

In addition to fish farming, the HDPE cage will hold broodstock for breeding at the NAMARET hatchery that is being developed by the government to help in supplying seeds to the farmers.

On his part, Engineer Willam B. Reorizo Jr. andINCA Phillipines assistant vice-president for projects, says the circular cages are more suitable compared to rectangular and wooden cages.

“This is the best design for Kijiweni community because it cannot be affected by strong waves and can hold many fingerlings stating example in Philippine where circular cage can hold over 20,000 fingerlings and harvest around 10 tonnes of fish in three to four months.”

Hamad Kombo Hamad, a Kijiweni fisherman who specialised in fingerling fishing, says he expects to reap heavy from the circular cage projects.

“Before I used to sell fingerlings at a very low price of Shs 7 to 10 per fingerlings but now I optimistic that JICA and KEMFRI will buy fingerlings at a good price that will benefit me because fingerlings needs special attention after fishing or else you may counter a very big loss because they can easily die with poor handling.”

A Self Help Beach Management Unit vice-chair Bakari Mnyeto says the project will be beneficial to Kijiweni community in a big way especially in lifting its standards of livelihood.

“We used to manage wooden cages that was very challenging because it could not sustain heavy waves but for this new technology we are optimistic that even fishermen will reap from the rabbit fish (tafi ) that is seasonal.”

According to him dealers can buy a kilogram of rabbit fish between Sh250 and She270.

Ogello and Munguti (2016) say there us increased demand for food due to increasing population in Kenya where according to USAID (2020) indicate that about 1.3 people face food insecurity and poor nutrition.

Fish contributes to more than half of the total animal protein intake in Kenya with over 200,000 people along Kenya’s coast meeting their livelihoods through fishing or trading in fish and fish products .

At the south coast of Kenya, artisanal fisheries make a vital contribution to local community livelihoods where fish is considered as the most readily available and affordable source of animal protein for the local communities.

However, the contribution of small-scale fisheries towards food provision and improvement of livelihoods has been rarely considered.

Studies indicate that most fishing households arguably consume more fish compared to non-fishing households in the coast region.

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