Illegal fishing is a global challenge. By ignoring legislation, using illegal gear or selling undersized fish, 26 million tons of seafood, estimated at USD$23 billion, is extracted from the oceans each year.
While huge international attention is given to illegal fishing in the marine sector, illegal fishing inland, by small-scale fisheries, is often forgotten.
Lake Victoria is the second largest freshwater body in the world, bordered by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Around one million tons of fish are caught from the lake each year, by around 200,000 fishers working from locally-made boats.
It’s widely believed that there are high levels of illegal fishing activity on and around the lake. This includes the use of nets with small mesh and illegal fishing gear to catch immature fish.
Such fishing gear include monofilament nets, which are highly destructive if lost as they continue “fishing”, and beach seines, which are small mesh size nets and therefore are indiscriminate in what they catch. In addition, illegal methods, like tycoon fishing to beat fish into the net, may be carried out near breeding areas.
These methods threaten the sustainability of Lake Victoria’s fisheries. Of particular concern is the Nile perch industry, the most valuable of the three commercial fisheries in the lake. The majority of the catch is exported, contributing greatly to government revenue and local economies. Stocks and catches of perch have reduced, from 340,000 tons in 1990 to about 251,000 in 2014.
To address illegal fishing, a comanagement approach was introduced in the late 1990s. Many inland fisheries use this arrangement whereby local resource users, including fishers, traders and processors, work with government, and other actors, like NGOs, to manage fisheries.
It’s implemented in the hope that by involving the users of the resource, it will encourage more sustainable practices. It is also used when the state doesn’t have the capacity to manage fisheries, including enforcing regulations, on its own.
However, there’s little evidence that the introduction of comanagement has led to a reduction in illegalities – and one of the reasons for this is corruption.
We did research to find out how corruption affects the comanagement system of Lake Victoria fisheries. We were concerned that comanagement was said to be failing, as illegalities were still widespread, yet there was no link made between corruption and illegal fishing in lake management plans.
We believed corruption to be systemic and strongly linked to illegal fishing practices.
Our fears were confirmed. We found that it is a major enabler of illegalities; from paying a bribe to prevent gear from being seized, to receiving advance information on patrols from government officers to avoid arrest. By encouraging illegal fishing to continue, corruption is undermining the comanagement system.
Corruption and Lake Victoria fisheries
The lake’s comanagement system is centred around 1,000 community-based beach management units, made up of all those that work in fisheries at a landing site – where fish is brought to shore.
There are almost 1,500 landing sites, some are villages, others more temporary settlements. Beach management unit committees of between nine and 15 people are elected to work with government officers in registering fishers, gear, keeping landing sites clean and participating in patrols.
For our research, we conducted 133 interviews with leaders from the beach management units, boat owners, boat crew, fish processors and traders and fisheries officers.
These were done at six landing sites in each country bordering the lake – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Respondents were not asked directly about corruption. Instead they were asked about their knowledge, and experience, of illegal fishing and many volunteered information about corruption.
Our research confirmed that corruption exists and perpetuates illegal activity. It’s part of the system and involves all stakeholder groups: fishers, fisheries officers, police and the judiciary.
About half the boat owners and boat crew, though fewer fish processors and traders, referred to bribery and corruption when talking about their knowledge and experience of illegal fishing. They explained how enforcement officers demand bribes, rather than take offenders to court, or may arrange for regular payments in exchange for allowing the continued use of illegal gear.
Given the prevalence of corruption within Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, it would be ambitious to expect the fisheries sector to be immune from corruption. But recognising that corruption exists, that it encourages illegal behaviour and affects the management of the lake is imperative to putting an end to illegal fishing.
How corruption affects co-management
Corruption affects co-management in at least three ways.
Committee members become discouraged from enforcing regulations when enforcement officers, such as government fisheries staff and police officers, actively seek bribes and return seized gear.
Cases were reported of government fisheries staff interfering in the election of committee members.
Corruption among committee members made enforcement impossible and discouraged compliance amongst other fishers.
There are also other incidents. For instance, politicians will intervene to stop enforcement during election periods. An example of this is when the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, suspended the work of fisheries officers and beach management units during the last presidential election campaign.
He claimed that corruption was rife. But no action was taken against anyone or measures adopted to prevent corruption linked to illegal activity and enforcement.
Multiple measures would be needed to stop corruption within fisheries.
These could be relatively simple, for instance ensuring fisheries departments do their job in a timely way –- licensing boats can take years whereas it should be done quickly and regularly.
The issue of how fisheries staff are monitored and supervised could also be discussed. For example, staff shouldn’t necessarily be in post at one location for a long time.
Ultimately, the use of land and water patrols, fines and arrests to enforce regulations are futile unless corruption is recognised, openly discussed and measures taken to address it.
By Fiona Nunan Professor of Environment and Development, University of Birmingham.
This article was first published in The Conversation.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
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Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
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Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
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Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.