The Surging Tuna Fishery Industry in Kenya | WWF

The Surging Tuna Fishery Industry in Kenya

Posted on
16 May 2016
Tuna is among the world’s most economically viable marine fish species. Seven species of tuna are of commercial importance; including bigeye (Thunnus obesus), albacore (T. alalunga), yellowfin (T. albacares), skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis) and three species of bluefin tuna (T. maccoyyii, T. orientalis and T. thynnus). Global annual production of tuna has increased from less than 0.6 million tonnes in the 1950s to above 6 million tonnes currently (Mailu et al., 2015).  Global demand for tuna continues to increase, resulting in increasing fishing capacity and largescale decline of the world’s tuna stocks (WWF, 2012). 
Japan is the world’s largest fresh tuna consumer accounting for 81% of the world’s tuna consumption.  Other large consumers include United States of America – 8.1%, Korea – 4.1%, China – 1.6%, Taiwan – 1.4% and the European Union – 1.1% (PEW, 2012).

The Indian Ocean contributes 10% of the approximately 93 million tonnes of global fish production annually; 50% of the landings are in Western Indian Ocean (WIO) (Kimani et al., 2009). Kenya is one among the WIO countries alongside Tanzania, Somalia, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Comoros, Madagascar, Seychelles and Mauritius.

Food and Agriculture Organization databases (2007-2011) show a predominance of yellowfin and skipjack tuna in the catches of the WIO, accounting for almost 90 % of the catches (Poseidon et al., 2014). 

The tuna fishery industrial value chain is dominated by foreign operators including Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Spain and France (Distant Waters Fishing Nations – DWFNs) with WIO states playing relatively marginal role (Mailu et al., 2015).  In Kenya the government receives revenue only through licensing of foreign vessels whilst local fisher communities miss out on benefits accrued from the tuna industry.

The main challenges facing WIO states in managing and optimizing economic benefits from tuna are weak monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) leading to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities; insufficient technical expertise in the tuna value chain hence little knowledge of stocks; a hostile tax code; insufficient port infrastructure and processing plants and economic planning by governments that overlooks tuna (WWF, 2012).

WWF takes cognizance of above issues and seeks to enhance responsible trade and investment in the tuna fishery

This is being done by supporting the implementation of the National Tuna Strategy with some of the key activities being support to MCS, fisheries co-management initiatives and supporting dialogue on matters affecting tuna fisherfolk in coastal Kenya. Resource and other management issues are done within CKP while national, regional and global issues are handled at national, regional and network levels.

1. Kimani, N. E., Okemwa, M. G., and Kazungu, M. J. (2009) Fisheries in the southwest indian ocean: trends and governance challenges.  The Indian Ocean resource and governance challenges, the Henry L. Stimson centre
2. Mailu, S., Ngila, M., Wamukota, A. (2015) Tuna fisheries within the west indian ocean: is there a role for comesa? Social Science Research Network
3. PEW (2012) Global tuna fishing. Environmental science
4. POSEIDON, MRAG, NFDS and COFREPECHE (2014) Review of tuna fisheries in the western indian ocean. Framework contract MARE/2011/01 – Lot 3, specific contract 7.
5. WWF (2012) Developing minimal terms and conditions for granting tuna access in the western indian ocean.  Agreement No. CN63. Jane Mbendo  – Samaki Eco-Systems 
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