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Part I Overview and main indicators

  1. Country brief
  2. General geographic and economic indicators
  3. FAO Fisheries statistics

Part II Narrative (2016)

  1. Production sector
    • Marine sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
    • Inland sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
      • Fishing communities
    • Aquaculture sub-sector - NASO
    • Recreational sub-sector
  2. Post-harvest sector
    • Fish utilization
    • Fish markets
  3. Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector
    • Role of fisheries in the national economy
    • Trade
    • Food security
    • Employment
    • Rural development
  4. Trends, issues and development
    • Constraints and opportunities
    • Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies
    • Research, education and training
      • Research
      • Education and training
    • Foreign aid
  5. Institutional framework
  6. Legal framework
    • Regional and international legal framework
  7. Annexes
  8. References

Additional information

  1. FAO Thematic data bases
  2. Publications
  3. Meetings & News archive

Part I Overview and main indicators

Part I of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile is compiled using the most up-to-date information available from the FAO Country briefs and Statistics programmes at the time of publication. The Country Brief and the FAO Fisheries Statistics provided in Part I may, however, have been prepared at different times, which would explain any inconsistencies.

Country briefPrepared: February 2015

Content provided by FAO

Kenya’s fisheries and aquaculture sector contributes approximately 0.54 percent to the country’s GDP (2013). Fish consumption has been declining from a modest 6.0 kg/caput in 2000 to 4.5 kg/caput in 2011. The value of fish exports was about USD 62.9 million in 2012, or about 5 times greater than the USD 12.3 million in fish imports. In 2013, around 129 300 people derived their livelihood from fishing and fish farming activities (including 48 300 in inland waters, 13 100 in coastal waters fishing and around 67 900 in fish farming).

Total fishery and aquaculture production in 2013 amounted to 186 700 tonnes, with 83 percent coming from inland capture fisheries (of which Lake Victoria contributed about 90 percent). Catches of Nile perch - the most sought and mainly exported fish species – seriously declined due to overfishing after the 2000 peak at 110 000 tonnes but since 2007 stabilized around an average of 45 000 tonnes per year. Marine capture fisheries produce less than 9 000 tonnes per year, comparatively much less than neighboring countries.

Freshwater aquaculture development in Kenya in the new millennium is remarkable, especially in 2009¬2010, making Kenya one of the fast growing major producers in Sub-Saharan Africa. From the annual production of about 1 000 tonnes in 2001–2006, the harvest of farmed fish leaped to over 4 000 tonnes in 2007–2009. In a nationwide fish farming mass campaign launched by government in 2009, the total area of fish ponds was increased from 220 ha to 468 ha by building 7 760 new fish ponds. Together with the improved seed supply and supports covering other aspects, it lead to a hike in farmed fish production reaching 23 501 tonnes in 2013, more than four times of the production in 2009. The main species produced in 2013 was Nile tilapia (75 percent), followed by African catfish, common carp and rainbow trout. Mariculture is not yet practiced commercially, despite its potential demonstrated by trials.

The Government is looking into ways of promoting aquaculture and using cured fish products for food relief programs in order to enhance national food security.

The main issue in the capture fisheries sector is one of overcapacity in Lake Victoria and the symptoms of overexploitation (increasing conflict, overfishing, and falling incomes) that accompany it. This issue is being addressed in cooperation with neighboring countries through the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO), and through the Regional Plan of Action for the Management of Fishing Capacity in Lake Victoria that was agreed in March 2007.

In the marine sector, one issue is the control of foreign flag vessels that are fishing tuna in the Exclusive Economic Zone and where illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is known to occur.

Kenya is Party to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea since March 1989 and to the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement since July 2004. Kenya signed the Port State Measures Agreement in November 2010.

Kenya is a Member of the Committee for Inland Fisheries of Africa (CIFA), a founding Member of Aquaculture Network for Africa (ANAF), a Member of the FAO Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and a Member of the FAO South West Indian Ocean Commission for Fisheries (SWIOFC).
General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 – Kenya -General Geographic and Economic Data

Inland water area 18 029 km2 KNBS: www.knbs.or.ke
Marine water area (including the EEZ) 142 400 km2  
Shelf area 19 120 km2 UNEP (1998) **
Length of continental coastline 640 km UNEP (1998) **
GDP at purchaser's value (2014)

KES 5 358 billion

USD 61.1 billion*

KNBS: www.knbs.or.ke
GDP per capita (2014)

KES 124 710

USD 1 422*

KNBS: www.knbs.or.ke
Agricultural GDP (2014)

KES 1 464 billion

USD 16.7 billion*

27.3 % of national GDP

KNBS: www.knbs.or.ke
Fisheries GDP (2014)

KES 40.4 billion

USD 461 million*

0.8 % of national GDP

KNBS: www.knbs.or.ke
*calculated with UN exchange rate

** UNEP (1998): http://gridnairobi.unep.org/chm/EAFDocuments/Kenya/Eastern_Africa_Atlas_of_Coastal_Resources_Kenya.pdf

Key statistics

Country area580 370km2FAOSTAT. Expert sources from FAO (including other divisions), 2013
Land area569 140km2FAOSTAT. Official data, 2013
Inland water area11 230km2Computed. Calculated, 2013
Population - Est. & Proj.48.792millionsFAOSTAT. Official data, 2017
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area113 819km2VLIZ
GDP (current US$)70 529millionsWorld Bank. 2016
GDP per capita (current US$)1 455US$World Bank. 2016
Agriculture, value added35.6% of GDPWorld Bank. 2016

Source: FAO Country Profile

FAO Fisheries statisticsThe tables and graphs in this section are based on statistics prepared by the FAO Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit and disseminated in 2016.

Table 2 —Kenya — FAO fisheries statistics

      1980 1990 2000 2010 2012 2013 2014
PRODUCTION (thousand tonnes) 47.9 202.6 216.1 152.6 180.2 186.6 192.3
    Inland 42.3 192.0 210.9 144.1 171.6 177.8 183.3
    Marine 5.7 10.6 5.2 8.5 8.6 8.9 9.0
  Aquaculture 0.2 1.2 0.5 12.2 21.5 23.5 24.1
    Inland 0.2 1.0 0.5 12.2 21.5 23.5 24.1
    Marine 0.0 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
  Capture 47.8 201.3 215.5 140.4 158.7 163.1 168.2
    Inland 42.1 191.0 210.3 131.9 150.1 154.3 159.2
    Marine 5.7 10.4 5.2 8.5 8.6 8.9 9.0
TRADE (USD million)              
  Import 2.7 0.7 4.6 7.8 12.3 15.5 0.0
  Export 0.9 26.9 38.9 63.8 62.8 39.0 0.0
EMPLOYMENT (thousands) 5.9 6.0 20.0 20.0 20.0 20.0 20.0
  Aquaculture     6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0
  Capture 0.0 0.0 14.0 14.0 14.0 14.0 14.0
    Inland     6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0
    Marine     8.0 8.0 8.0 8.0 8.0
FLEET(thousands boats) ... ... 15.7 19.7 19.9 19.9 19.9
  Fish food supply (thousand tonnes in live weight equivalent) 48.7 175.4 188.8 140.1      
  Per Capita Supply (kilograms) 3.0 7.5 6.0 3.4      
  Fish Proteins (grams per capita per day) 0.9 2.2 1.8 1.0      
  Fish/Animal Proteins (%) 5.7 11.8 11.6 5.7      
  Fish/Total Proteins (%) 1.4 3.8 3.0 1.6      

Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics

1) Excluding aquatic plants

2) Due to roundings total may not sum up

Figure 1 — Kenya— Total fishery production
Figure 1 — Kenya— Total fishery production

Figure 2 — Kenya — Production of aquatic plants
Figure 2 — Kenya — Production of aquatic plants

Figure 3 — Kenya — Capture production
Figure 3 — Kenya — Capture production

Figure 4 — Kenya— Major species groups in capture production
Figure 4 — Kenya— Major species groups in capture production

Figure 5 — Kenya— Composition of capture production – 2014
Figure 5 — Kenya— Composition of capture production – 2014

Figure 6 — Kenya— Aquaculture production
Figure 6 — Kenya— Aquaculture production

Figure 7 — Kenya—Major species groups in aquaculture production
Figure 7 — Kenya—Major species groups in aquaculture production

Figure 8 — Kenya— Import and export value of fish and fishery products
Figure 8 — Kenya— Import and export value of fish and fishery products

Figure 9 — Kenya– Major species groups in import
Figure 9 — Kenya– Major species groups in import

Figure 10 — Kenya – Major species groups in export
Figure 10 — Kenya – Major species groups in export

Figure 11 — Kenya — Per capita supply of fish and fishery products
Figure 11 — Kenya — Per capita supply of fish and fishery products

Figure 12 — Kenya — Composition of total fish food supply - 2011
Figure 12 — Kenya — Composition of total fish food supply - 2011

Updated 2016Part II Narrative

Part II of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile provides supplementary information that is based on national and other sources and that is valid at the time of compilation (see update year above). References to these sources are provided as far as possible.

Production sector

The Republic of Kenya, with a total land surface area of about 580 000km2, sits astride the equator. It is imbued with numerous aquatic resources of immense ecological value indicative of a productive and valuable ecosystem. Its highly geographic and climatic regions cover a portion of the Indian Ocean coastline, swamps, wetlands, a part of Lake Victoria which is the largest freshwater lake in Africa and second largest lake in the world, and many large rivers. Its varied habitats, including the deep oceanic waters, show a rich biological diversity.

A prominent feature of Kenya’s rich heritage is its over 600 kilometers of coastline on the Indian Ocean, with productive ecosystems, which play a highly significant role in the economic and social wellbeing of the people. A distinctive seamark of the coastline is the almost continuous fringing coral reef which stretches parallel to the coast. This coastline comprises 12 nautical miles of territorial waters and a 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with a total area of 142 400 km2.Kenya has important, well-defined and well-developed marine and freshwater fisheries. The marine fisheries can be classified into two subsectors: the coastal artisanal fishery, and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) fishery. A basic feature of the coastal fishery is the largely subsistence and artisanal nature of the fishers who operate small craft propelled by wind sails and manual paddles. The EEZ fishery, on the other hand, is characterized by distant-water fishing vessels which exploit target species mainly with purse-seines and long-lines.

The maximum sustainable yield of Kenya’s marine and coastal waters is between 150 000 and 300 000 metric tonnes, while the current production level is only about 9 000 metric tonnes per annum. Kenya’s portion of the Lake Victoria basin has about 307 fish landing beaches while the marine coastline has 141 fish landing sites. Lake Victoria, which Kenya (6%) shares with neighboring Uganda (43%) and Tanzania (51%), is rich in fish diversity, and of its total fish production), 35% is landed on the Kenyan portion of the lake. The Lake continues to dominate Kenya’s fish production, a greater quantity of which is generally derived from inland capture fisheries. The bulk of the total fish landings come from its portion of the lake which, with more than 90% of total national catch, traditionally hosts the country’s largest fishery. In 2006 the lake produced 143 900 metric tonnes of fish, while Lake Turkana and coastal and marine waters produced 4 560 metric tonnes and 6 960 metric tonnes respectively. The total marine capture production for 2013 stands at 8 980 tonnes, as against 154 200 tonnes from inland waters for the same period. On a national fish catch contribution level, Lake Victoria produces 92% of total landings; marine capture fisheries, about 4%; inland lakes and rivers, 3%; while aquaculture contributes the remaining 1%.However, the Lake Victoria fishery is currently at risk, as stocks particularly of Nile perch (Lates niloticus) and Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), face a great threat of collapse, though the latter species exhibits high natural reproductive capacity under favorable conditions. Three types of fish farming are practiced in Kenya: warm-water fish culture, basically involving Nile tilapia, African catfish and common carp; cold mountain fish culture in which trout is farmed; and coastal salt-water farming which targets various marine species, both fin-and shell-fish. Fish-holding systems in use include earthen or concrete ponds, high density polyethylene (HDPE)-lined earthen ponds, cages, raceways and metal tanks. Kenya’s aquaculture potential stands at 1.14 million hectares of farming area with capacity to produce 11 million tonnes of fish worth well over 750 billion Kenyan shillings (about USD 7.3 billion) per annum.Kenya has a thriving recreational fishery, with a large variety of fish species close to shore. It is a preferred destination for sport-fishing tourists who angel, troll and scuba-dive in the country’s coastal and deep waters.

Marine sub-sector

Catch profile

The Kenyan coastline is rich in fish species. Species caught in Kenya’s marine waters can be categorized as demersal, pelagic, sharks and rays, crustaceans, molluscs and deep sea/big-game fish. Fishing is mainly artisanal, subsistence and inshore. The Kenyan marine waters host a large variety of fish species, including finfishes: pelagics, such as kingfish, barracuda, mullets, queenfish, cavalla jacks, little mackerels, barracudas, milkfish, sailfish, bonitos, tunas, dolphins and mixed pelagics; demersal species, such as rabbitfish, snapper, rock cod, scavenger, parrotfish, sturgeon, unicorn fish, grunter, pouter, blackskin, goatfish, steaker and mixed demersals; crustaceans and invertebrates, such as prawns, lobsters, crabs, and sea-cucumbers, etc; and molluscs, such as squids and octopus. Other fish species exploited in the waters are the parrotfish (Leptoscarus vaigiensis), the crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci), moray eels (Muraenidae), damselfishes (Abudefduf annulatus), A. xanthozonus), acanthurida (A. triostegus), cardinal fish, wrasses, angelfish, scorpion fish, etc.

Other finfish species include emperors, and rock cods. Deeper waters support the pelagic species such as tuna, eels, and mullets.

Factors affecting marine fish landings in Kenya include tides, the monsoon weather pattern, fishing gear and craft, and social and economic considerations. Demersal fish species predominate over pelagics in the catches.

Kenya sits within the rich tuna belt of the West Indian Ocean where about 25% of the world’s tuna is harvested. In cognizance of this, the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) in 2012 perfected plans to use the e-satellite station to identify fishing zones in order to enable fishers increase fish catch.

Landing sites

There were a total of 197 landing sites in Kenya’s marine and coastal waters in 2014.

The major fishing areas are the length of Kiunga coastline and Lamu islands in the North, Tana River mouth, Ngwana Bay and Malindi area, including the offshore North Kenya Bank and Shimoni, Vanga, Funzi Island and coral reef areas on the Southern border.

Thirteen major fishing grounds exist in Lamu, including: Dodorori, Faza, Lagoon, , Manda, Matondoni, Pate and Shela.

Major fish landing sites including Kipini, Jetty, Mayungu, Mambrui, Malindi among others are located within the Malindi-Ungwana bay area while landing sites within the Mombasa-Kilifi area include Nyali, Msanakani, Reef, Kenyatta, Marina, Mtwapa, Kanamai Bureni,Vipingo, Kijangwani, Kuruwitu, Kilifi and Watamu. Seven major sites (Chale, Mgwani,Mwanyaza, Mvuleni, Mwaepe, Tradewinds and Tiwi) fall within the Diani-Chale area whilefour major fish landing sites (Vanga, Shimoni Msambweni and Gazi) are situated within theFunzi-Shirazi bay area.

Fishing practices/systems

Different types of gear and craft are deployed by fishers towards the exploitation of the fish resources. The vessels include canoes, motorized boats, sailboat (dhow), outrigger canoe (ngalawa), and open fishing boat (mashuwa). Built to withstand rough seas and open fishing voyages, dhows and ‘ngalawas’ are equipped with shark net, driftnet and gillnets. Fishing in canoes, on the other hand, employ beach seine, cast-nets, drift long-lines, set gillnets, fish pot and barricade traps.

Major gear used by the artisanal fishers include: gillnets, seine nets, cast-nets, long-lines, hand-lines, spears, ‘lema’ (basket traps), ‘uzio’ (barricades) and ‘tata’ (weir). ‘Chachacha’, which is a traditional gear used to catch half beaks, is utilized in Vanga.

Kenya’s marine fisheries, being mainly artisanal and subsistence, are undertaken mostly from small, non-motorized boats such as outriggers, dhows and planked pirogues. As a result of the obvious limitation in fishing craft technology, fishing effort is mainly constrained within the reef and is hardly undertaken outside the territorial waters.

Gillnets, artisanal seine, hand-lines, trolling lines, trammel net, harpoons, hooked- and pointed-sticks, fence- and basket- traps, and bottom lines are used in the fishery, while pots are used to harvest lobsters in Lamu, Malindi and Kwale areas. Medium-sized trawlers and modern technological fishing equipment including prawn seine, are employed for industrial prawn fishing. Ring nets are also used to exploit offshore fish resources far into the EEZ.

Some 6 500 fishers operated 1 800 artisanal fishing craft in Kenya’s marine and coastal waters in 2010. As a result of the nature of these craft, they lack access to offshore and deep-sea fisheries and thus land small catches, in the neighborhood of 7 000 tonnes annually, representing about 4% of the total national fish catch. But while the inshore fishery was exploited by the local artisanal fishers, the offshore distant waters were targeted by Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFN) with a major focus on the tunas (skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye). Foreign fishing fleet are authorized to operate in Kenya’s EEZ in accordance with the Regional and International Agreement and Cooperation provision of the National Oceans and Fisheries Policy which states, inter alia, “The Government will continue to grant fishing rights to other distant Water Fishing Nations to fish in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) taking into account the state of the stock and economic returns”.

A total of 2 913 fishing craft were actively used in the marine capture fishery in 2014. Of these, dugout canoes were the most prevalent, accounting for 47.9%; Dhow with flat at one end (Mashua) 22.1%; Hori 10.8%; Dau 9%; Ngalawa( outrigger boats pointed at one end) 5.7%; Mtori 3.1%; Surf and rafts 1.4%.

Main resources

Kenya’s marine fisheries can be classified into two subsectors: the coastal artisanal fishery, and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) fishery. A basic feature of the coastal fishery is the largely subsistence and artisanal nature of the fishers who operate small craft propelled by wind sails and manual paddles. This fishery mainly targets crustaceans, molluscs, rock cod, beche-de-mer, dry shark fins, marine shells, livers and roes and other sea products. The EEZ fishery, on the other hand, is characterized by distant-water fishing vessels which mainly employ purse-seine and long line in the exploitation of tuna.

Kenya’s coastal and marine environments show expansive resource diversity. The coast, encompassing both the intertidal and sub-tidal areas, provides finfish and shellfish, both of which are caught inshore and offshore. Of the estimated 19 120km2 continental shelf area, some 10 994km2 are considered trawlable.

About 163 reef- and reef-related species from 37 families are known to exist in southern Kenya, some of the most dominant of which are the thumbprint emperor (Lethrinus harak), blue marbled parrotfish (Leptoscarus vaigiensis), dory snapper (Lutjanus fulviflemma), white-spotted rabbit fish (Siganus sutor), sky emperor (Lethrinus mahsena) and the trumpet emperor (L. miniatus).

The maximum sustainable yield of Kenya’s marine and coastal waters is estimated at between 150 000 and 300 000 metric tonnes. However, optimal harnessing of these resources is hindered by infrastructural limitations and inappropriate fishing craft and gear. Artisanal fishers mainly restrict their operations to the continental shelf because they are ill-equipped in terms of craft and equipment to fish in the deep sea.Increasingly targeted for their high internal and external market prices are lobsters, crabs and octopus, all of which have also attracted the attention of seafood companies and local businessmen. The crab fishery thrives mainly in Mombasa, Malindi, Kilifi and Watamu, and is very active in Ngomeni-Marereni area, especially during the peak tourist season when the product fetches much higher prices. Lobsters are mostly caught between October and March at the North East Monsoon period. The fishery is attractive to local entrepreneurs who engage the services of skilled diver-fishers for this purpose. In addition to local fishers from around the Kenyan coastline, many migrant fishers from Pemba Island in Tanzania fish lobsters. For the industrial shrimp fishery, the single fishing ground of commercial importance is located in the Ungwa Bay at the mouth of River Tana and is one of East Africa’s largest The target shrimp species include Penaeus indicus, Metapenaeus monoceros, P.monodon, P.semisulcatus and P. japonicas.

Management applied to main fisheries

Management objectives

In a bid to deter Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing, and to better manage the marine and coastal fisheries of Kenya, the Ministry of Fisheries Development has a suite of management objectives and programmes, which include:

  • Development and review of fisheries management plans and harvest strategies
  • Protection and rehabilitation of critical fish habitats
  • Fish harvesting rights administration through fisheries licensing, permitting and partnership agreements
  • Monitoring fishing performance through an elaborate fisheries statistics programme including sample-based survey, frame survey and administrative data sources
  • Protection of endangered, threatened and protected marine species from fishing activities such as turtles, marine mammals and vulnerable shark species
  • Etc.

The shrimp fishery is currently the only sector with a management plan, ‘The Prawn Fishery Management Plan, Legal notice 20 of 2010’, with management plans for the other fisheries yet to be drawn.

Management measures and institutional arrangements

The Ministry of Fisheries Development manages all capture fishery activities. The management measures currently in place involve monitoring, control and surveillance (MSC), fisheries development, appraisal, improvement, and statistical data collection, etc.

The Ministry has implemented measures to stem overfishing by reducing the number of fishing boats targeting certain species. Highlighting its goal to promote fisheries management best practices, Kenya in 2014 established the ‘Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority’ with objectives including prevention of the collapse of the small-scale fishing subsector.

Inland sub-sector

Kenya has over 580 000 km2 total land surface area, of which inland waters cover 13 400 square kilometers. It has many seasonal and perennial rivers, most of which empty into the western Indian Ocean basin. Of these, the two major perennial rivers are Tana River and Sabaki River. Tana River, stretching approximately 850km in length with a catchment area of 95 000km2, is the longest river. Its regular replenishment is accomplished by a number of tributaries with headwaters on Mount Kenya. Before draining into the ocean, Tana River forms a branch that gives rise to Tana Delta, which is a complex of tidal creeks, flood plains, coastal lakes and mangrove swamps, all covering an area of about 1 300km2. Tana is followed, in length, by the Sabaki River, also known variously in its upland stretches as Athi and Galana, with a total length of 650km and a catchment area of 70 000km2. Semi-perennial and seasonal rivers, such as the Mwache, Kombeni, Tsalu, Nzovuni, Umba, Ramisi ,Mwachema and Voi, all empty into the Indian Ocean coast. And of small streams are Mto Mkuu, Tsalu, Sinawe, Kombeni, etc.

A number of lakes are found in the Kenya coastal region, especially in the Tana Delta. Lake Bilisa and Lake Shakabobo are two such lakes, oxbow in nature and remnants of the various meanders of River Tana. Some smaller lakes which also harbor fish resources are Ziwa la Chakamba, Ziwa la Taa, Ziwa la Maskiti and Ziwa la Ndovu. And in the Kilimanjaro area are two larger lakes, Jipe and Chala.

However, from the fisheries point of view, the two major natural lakes are Lake Turkana (6 405 km2) and Lake Victoria sector (3 755 km2). The most important of other smaller lakes are Lake Baringo and Lake Naivasha.

Lake Victoria (at 68 000 km2, Africa’s largest lake, the world’s largest tropical lake and the world’s second largest freshwater lake is a shared lake with basin countries of Kenya (6%), Uganda (45%) and Tanzania (49%).

Catch profile

Kenya’s inland waters comprising cold and warm freshwaters support an abundance of aquatic resources. Some of the predominant freshwater fish species are Alestes, Bagrus, Barbus, Black bass, Clarias, Rastrineobola and Labeo. Others are Haplochromis, Lates niloticus, Momyrus, Protopterus, Schilbe and Synodontis. The rest are tilapias, trout, carps, eels, Citharinus, Hydrocynus and Distichodus niloticus.

Freshwater fish landings have always been higher than those from the marine waters of Kenya. Lake Victoria (Kenyan portion) has always had the largest fishery, producing about 90% of fish in the country. The lake’s total fish production was 143 900 metric tonnes in 2006, 111 370 tonnes in 2008 and 108 900 tonnes in 2009.

Nile perch (Lates niloticus) is the basis for Lake Victoria’s all-important fishery industry and forms the backbone of the operations of most of the fishers and other artisans and businesspersons who target it for both domestic and export markets. One species of major economic and commercial importance is the ever-ubiquitous diminutive endemic silver cyprinid Rastrineobola argeantea (known variously as ‘omena’, ‘mukene’ or ‘dagaa’) which move in huge shoals and are targeted for both human consumption and for animal feed production.

Species most dominant in specific major inland water bodies are as follows:

  • Lake Victoria: Alestes, Bagrus, Barbus, Clarias, Rastrineobola, Haplochromis, Labeo, Lates niloticus, Momyrops, Protopterus, Schilbe, Synodontis, and Tilapia.

  • Lake Turkana: Black bass, crayfish, and Tilapia zilli.

  • Lake Baringo: Tilapia, Protopterus, Clarias and Barbus.

  • Tana River Dams: Tilapia, Common carp, Clarias, Barbus, Labeo, eels, and Momyrus.

Landing sites

The Kenya portion of the Lake Victoria basin has about 307 fish landing beaches. The lake’s shores of Kisumu, Kisii and Homa Bay are important fish landing sites that handle large quantities of fish. So also are the shores of Lakes Bilisa, Shakababo, Kongolola, Kitumbuini, Dida Warede, Harakisa, Moa and Kenyatta.

Fishing practices/systems

The Lake Victoria fishery is largely artisanal and subsistence, employing mainly gillnets, seine nets, longlines and traps. To date, paddle-powered craft are predominantly in use in the fishery. One commonplace fishing method on the lake is the use of seine nets and light attraction by use of pressure lamps. The silver cyprinid Rastrineobola argentea, especially, is caught by light attraction during the night. Trawling is banned in the lake by an act of law. Drift-netting (‘tembea’) is also often used on the lake.

Main resources

The Kenyan portion of Lake Victoria traditionally has the largest fishery in the country, with a 2006 total fish production of 143 900 tonnes. This catch quantity declined to 111 370 tonnes in 2008, and further to 108 900 tonnes in 2009. The lake’s 44 263 fishers operating light and small-scale gear and craft constitute the largest fishing community in Kenya. Lake Naivasha, Lake Baringo, Lake Jipe, Lake Chala and River Tana are other major fisheries in the country.Kenya’s part of Lake Victoria hosts a multispecies fishery consisting of both indigenous and introduced species. The endemic species include cichlids and more than 20 genera of non-cichlid species, including Mormyrus, catfish, cyprinids and lungfish. The introduced species include Nile perch and Nile tilapia, both of which substantially contributed in increasing the annual fish production in the 1980s and 1990s. With a high fish species diversity, Lake Victoria hosts between 170 to 350 fish species, the three of most commercial importance of which are the Nile perch (Lates niloticus), the silver cyprinid ‘dagaa’ or 'omena’(Rastineobola argentea) and the Nile tilapia (‘ngege’), all of which have universal occurrence in the lake. In the past few years, these three have constituted about 58 percent, 30 percent and 10 percent respectively of the total fish landed on the lake.The maximum sustainable yield of Nile perch in the Kenyan portion of Lake Victoria has been estimated at 39 200 tonnes while that of ‘dagaa’ is 86 000 tonnes. The growth of the fishmeal-based animal feeds industry during the past few years has resulted in an unprecedented demand for ‘dagaa’, the second most commercially dominant fish species in the lake.The Nile perch (Lates niloticus) is the dominant species in the lake and indeed in the entire fisheries of Kenya, and is processed for fillets for both internal and external markets. It is the basis for the lake’s fisheries as the most important industry and underpins the artisanal and subsistence lifestyle of the lake’s riparian zones. Haplochromis species (locally called ‘fulu’), though low in value, is also in abundance in the lake. There was a sharp growth in the Lake Victoria fish production up till 1990 when catch decline set in. This earlier increase in production was probably the result of exponential increase in the Nile perch (Lates niloticus) biomass. Over the past few years, however, there has been a steady decline in fish diversity and harvest as a result of increases in fishing effort, arising from commercialization. The threatening collapse of the Nile perch and Nile tilapia fishery is due to the overexploitation of the fishery, use of illegal gear and especially of small mesh gillnets, and indiscriminate fishing practices and mass-target fishing methods, which have been prevalent in Lake Victoria. Illustratively, the average mesh size of gill net used in the lake to fish Nile perch reduced from 12 inches in 1981 to 6 inches in 1996, and this may have decreased further since then.Consequently, fish production from Lake Victoria plummeted from 200 000 metric tonnes in 1999 to about 114 000 metric tonnes in 2008.

Among the fish species of Lakes Shakababo and Kongolola are Oreochromis mossambicus (‘Barabara’), Synodontis zambesiensis (‘Chokolame’), Mormyrus sp. (‘Pawa’), Clarias mossambicus (‘Pumi’), Labeo gregorii (‘Borode’), Protepterus amphibious (‘Kamongo’), and Anguilla mossambicus (Mkunga).

Management applied to main fisheries

The Inland and Riverine Division of the Ministry of Fisheries Development provides for the exploitation, utilization, management, development and conservation of the fisheries resources in Kenya’s lakes, rivers and dams. Some strategies which the government applies to ensure sustainable utilization of inland and riverine fishery resources include
  • Promotion of co-management of fisheries resources
  • Control of fishing effort : Frame survey (fisheries census)-generated surveys are continuous
  • Adoption of an ecosystem approach to fisheries management
  • Strengthening of enforcement of fisheries legislation
  • Enhancement of fish stocks in natural systems

A fisheries co-management system is in place through the establishment of the Beach Management Units (BMUs) which are responsible for fisher-vetting, monitoring, security, marketing and development of landing sites in partnership with the government and other development partners.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards has instituted fish processing quality assurance measures for both internal and external markets. Strict quality control procedures such as the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) are in force in all fish processing plants to guarantee the quality of Kenya’s fish and fish products. International best practices are employed at all stages of fish production, handling, processing, packaging, storage and distribution.

Fishing communities

Lake Victoria hosts the largest fishing community in Kenya; it has 44 263 fishers. Fish constitutes a major protein source for such communities.

Aquaculture sub-sector

Aquaculture has great potential in Kenya given its numerous aquatic resources. The country has over 1.14 million hectare potential area suitable for fish farming with capacity to produce over 11 million metric tonnes of fish worth 750 billion Kenya shillings (about USD 7.3 billion).

The Government’s promotion of aquaculture in Kenya started in 1921 when the colonial administration introduced trout, common carp and black bass into the country’s waters with the original intent of enhancing recreational fishing. Thereafter, cultivation of these species, and later of tilapia and African catfish, commenced.

Tilapia farming expanded rapidly in the 1960s as a result of the Government’s promotion of rural fish farming through the “Eat More Fish” campaign which gave birth to several small ponds, especially in the Central and Western provinces. However, because of insufficient extension services, shortage of quality fish seed, and poor technical skills especially amongst extension personnel, the number of productive ponds decreased sharply in the 1970s. But it was not until the mid-1990s that a renewed interest in fish farming developed as a result of the renovation of many government fish farms, intensive training of fisheries extension workers and establishment of research programmes.

Under the two phases of the government’s Fish Farming Enterprise and Productivity Programme (FFEPP) of between 2008 and 2011, a total of 3.84 billion Kenya shillings (USD 37.3 million) were allocated for the construction of a total number of 28 200 fish ponds in 160 constituencies, 3 shallow wells in each constituency, construction of 80 mini fish processing and storage plants, purchase of pond liners, fish seed and supplementary feed.

Kenya’s aquaculture systems straddle the spectrum from small-scale extensive (non-commercial) to intensive polyculture of Nile tilapia and African catfish in earthen ponds, tanks, raceway and cage, and of monoculture of rainbow trout. Fish farming is practiced in all Kenyan provinces except the North-Eastern Province and Nairobi area.

Aquaculture has recorded tremendous growth in Kenya in recent years. This growth is evidenced by the high demand for supplementary feed and seeds of Nile tilapia and African catfish, and has occurred as a result of growth in hatcheries and financial investment in the sector. The country’s aquaculture production nearly doubled between 2010 and 2012 from 12 000 metric tonnes to about 22 000 metric tonnes, according to the National Aquaculture Research Development and Training Centre. This is so probably as a result of corresponding growth in hatcheries, and human and capital investments in the sector.

Seeking to further boost total fish production to 11 million tonnes in view of the dwindling fish stocks in lakes and other water bodies, the Kenyan Government started shifting focus to fish farming in order to increase food security and boost public revenue.

Aquaculture in Kenya can be categorized into two categories, thus:
  • Marine aquaculture and
  • Fresh water culture
Though Kenya has a long coastline which borders the Indian Ocean, and therefore has great potential for mariculture, this is yet to translate into much development as the resources remain largely unused. Kenya’s mariculture activity has for some time now consisted of the traditional brackish water ponds and artisanal shrimp and oyster culture, while some measure of intensive shrimp culture is practiced along the coast. By 1998 intensive shrimp cultivation had been under experimentation, just as there was an experimental oyster farm at Gazi. Indeed, potential for oyster farming exists on most of the coastline, even as there is possibility of exploiting marine algae as a crucial protein source.

Three types of marine fish farming activity could be achieved on the Kenyan coastline, viz, (i) pond culture in cleared mangroves or on land behind the mangroves; (ii) suspension culture (cage and raft) in sheltered waterways of adequate depth; and (iii) rack culture in the shallow intertidal zones.

Fresh water aquaculture dominates fish farming in Kenya and may be classified into:
  • Coldwater culture, involving the cultivation of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in highland areas, and
  • Warm water culture, involving the cultivation of Tilapine fishes, the African catfish (Clarias gariepinus), common carp (Cyprinus carpio) and a variety of ornamental fishes in low land regions of the country

Freshwater culture systems available in Kenya include semi-intensive cultivation of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) in static, earthen ponds; and intensive culture of trout in raceways. Tilapia and catfish, being warm-water species, are cultured in the tropical freshwater agro-climatic zone while trout, being an introduced cold water fish, performs well in the cooler waters of high altitude regions.

In 2009 Kenya had a total of 6 328 fish farmers who farmed on 9 116 earthen ponds covering a total of 275.37 hectares. These figures showed a remarkable improvement from the previous year’s total of 4 742 who worked on 7 530 ponds totaling an area of 227.79 ha. In 2009, 331 dams with an area of 547 hectares and 161 tanks/races with a total area of 2.3 hectares were also farmed. The gross total land area used for aquaculture in 2009, therefore, was about 825 hectares, as compared to 728 hectares used the previous year.

A total aquaculture production of 4 890 tonnes was recorded in 2009, of which the bulk (3 424 tonnes, representing nearly 70% was of tilapia species. This was followed by Clarias (1 047 tonnes), Common Carp (373 tonnes) and trout (51 tonnes). Black bass, Koi carp and Goldfish were also cultivated, though on a very small scale.

The increase in land area placed under water for fish farming is most likely a direct result of the Government’s Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) of the 2009/2010 Financial Year. The increase could also be attributable to the displacement of subsistence fish farmers with smallholder ponds by emergent commercial fish farmers owning larger ponds with consequent higher yields. Under the Programme aimed at improving nutrition and creating over 120 000 employment and income-generating opportunities, over 40 000 fish ponds have been constructed in 140 constituencies at an estimated cost of 1.12 billion Kenya shillings (USD 10.88 million). The Economic Stimulus Programme resulted in substantial increase in aquaculture production between 2010 and 2013.

The Government of Kenya has since 2002 introduced measures to boost the aquaculture industry as a strategy to compensate for the declining stocks from capture fisheries. Government aquaculture facilities include the Sagana Fish Farm (for warm water species), the Kiganjo Trout Farm (for cold water species) and the Ngomeini Prawn Farm (a pilot mariculture project). In the year 2009, Sagana Aquaculture Centre produced 448 359 fingerlings of Tilapia, Catfish, Goldfish and Swordfish while Kiganjo Trout Hatchery produced 53 993 fingerlings.

As at the year 2013 the government had constructed over 3 000 fish ponds all over the country under its Economic Stimulus Programme. Most of those ponds have, however, performed below expectations as a result of factors including inadequacy and high cost of inputs, and lack of technical expertise.

Recreational sub-sector

Kenya is reputed for some of the best deep-sea fishing in the world. Shimoni, Watamu, Mombasa, Pemba, and Lake Victoria offer recreational fishing opportunities with a large variety of fish species close to shore.

Pemba Channel and Lake Victoria are among the finest sport-fishing places. Also at Heming ways off Malindi Island, twin-engine deep-water fishing boats take recreational fishers to fish billfish in its November – March prime season, even as sailfish (known locally as ‘suli suli’) and Marlin (striped, blue, and black) often move inshore in shoals in the month of August.

Fishing off the coast of Kenya is governed by the twin monsoons: ‘Kusi’ (Southeast Monsoon) blowing from late March until November, and ‘Kaskazi’ (Northeast Monsoon) which starts mid-December. Most visiting anglers to Kenyan waters target sailfish while the marlin, bonito, skipjack tuna, shortbill spearfish and broadbill swordfish are also target sport species.

The months of April – August make up the best sport-fishing period, the weather being inclement the rest of the year. Offshore boats mainly use hook and line, while in shore-based recreational fishing, trolling, drifting and spinning are employed.

All along Kenya’s coastline are living coral reefs which occur as coral flats, lagoons, reef platforms and as a fringing reef colonizing the shallow parts of the continental shelf, save in locations where river inflow creates conditions of low salinity and high turbidity which inhibit coral growth. These have an immense value in attracting tourists. The coastline and the coastal lakes, as well as being important sources of fish protein, are also important for recreational activities.

In 1968 Kenya pioneered the establishment of marine protected areas in Africa. These areas were created to conserve coral reefs which run along most of the country’s coast and which form a biodiversity hotspot second only to the tropical rainforests. There are four Marine National Parks, at Malindi, Watamu, Kisite and Mombasa, with a total area of 54km2. Also, there are five Marine National Reserves, located at Malindi, Watamu, Mpunguti, Mombasa and Kiunga, with a total area of 706km2. While fishing is totally prohibited in the Parks, fishing using traditional methods is permitted within the boundaries of the reserves.

The Malindi-Watamu area presents the best known reefs and is part of the Marine National Reserves and the Marine National Parks, the latter of which are a complex of fringing reef, channels, islands, offshore reefs, sand, clays, seagrass meadows and isolated coral heads. The whole area of the National Reserves and the National Parks are designated as a Biosphere Reserve. Some fish groups usually associated with corals and are found here include the parrot fish (Leptoscarius vaigiensis), the crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci), moray eels (Muraenidae), damselfishes (Abudefduf annulatus, A. xanthozanus), acanthurida (A.triostegus), cardinal fish, wrasses, angelfish, scorpion fish, etc.

Post-harvest sector

Fish utilization

Until about 35 years ago, almost all fish caught in Kenyan waters was consumed fresh locally. The first fish processing factories were set up around Lake Victoria in early 1980s, thus paving the way for fish export the same period. Over the past 35 years, therefore, the fishing industry has gradually evolved from a domestic consumption-oriented industry to an export-oriented industry with value-added processing being applied. The Lake Victoria fishery has undergone tremendous commercial transformation over the years and is now dominated by fish-processing plants funded by international agencies which aim at promoting fish export to developed countries.

Post-capture, fresh fish is transported by fishers using fishing vessels. At landing sites, the fish destined for industrial processing is packed into refrigerated trucks and moved to the processing factory. While most of the export fish is freighted by air in specially-designed containers, the negligible proportion meant for local consumption ends up in supermarket chains via road transportation.

The domestic-market fish is usually packed in ice placed in polythene bags and then heaped in traditional baskets for transportation. Overnight transport systems are more often than not used to convey such fish to Nairobi and Mombasa. Lobsters are usually kept alive until transportation to either the external market or by road to the local market of Malindi, Kilifi, Mombasa or Nairobi. Processed fish, including sundried Nile perch, tilapia and ‘dagaa’, as well as deep-fried Nile perch are transported by road to various internal urban markets.

Fish meant for the domestic market is sold fresh, dried or processed for consumption. The excellent physico-chemical qualities of the Nile perch render its fillets, either chilled or frozen, to tremendous commercial interest. Its by-products of skin and scales also key into an important industry dealing on these and other by-products.

Kenya has implemented the European Union quality standards for all fish products destined for the international market. Kenya has 25 fish processing plants with a total capacity of 25 tonnes a year.Upon landing Rastrineobola argentea (dagaa, omena, mukene) are sold fresh and traditionally spread out on grass, old nets, mats, or in some places, on modern elevated racks, for drying in the sun. This process usually takes between one and three days, depending on the weather, during which period the fish are occasionally turned for uniformity. But because better catches are made during the rainy season, sun-drying often results in low-quality dried products. During rainfall, the fish are either taken indoors or covered in the drying site with tarpaulin or plastic sheeting. Post-drying, the fish are packed in sacks for transportation to the market. The premium quality products attract a higher market price and are targeted at human consumption while the lower-quality products are sold for chicken feed.

Prime marine sector products include bigeye, cuttlefish, fish oil, lobsters, octopus, prawns, sharks and shark fins, swordfish, tuna loins and canned tuna, all of which are targeted at both the local and international markets. Wanachi Marine Ltd, Shimko, Trans Africa and Sea Harvest are the major tuna processing factories in Kenya that export tuna loins to the European Union market.

In 2012 the Kenyan government invested 240 million Kenya shillings (USD 2.3 million) in building four fish cold storage plants at Rongo, Imenti, Tetu and Lurambi. This was meant to accord fish farmers storage facilities for their products prior to marketing.

Fish markets

Kenya’s fish market structure classifies traders according to their target market: internal or international market. For the local market, fish is largely sold fresh while the external market involves high quality standards during handling, processing and storage of Nile perch fillets, prawns, octopus, cuttlefish and lobsters. Export markets are usually the EU countries of Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus, Malta, France and Poland; the Far East countries of Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and China; the Middle East countries of Israel with a high demand for Nile perch and, to a much lesser extent, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The United States of America (USA), Venezuela, Colombia and Cuba also import some quantities of Kenyan fish, just as some unverified but negligible amounts are exported to neighboring African countries.

A total of 18 506 tonnes of Kenya’s fish and fish products were exported in 2009. Fish and fish products exported included Nile perch fillets, fish maws, octopus, sharks, swordfish, crabs and fish skins. Export of Nile perch accounted for 87.4% of total fish exports and 84.73% of the total fish export earnings. Export of fish maws took 5.6% of total export quantity and 11.3% of total monetary value, while octopus contributed 2.4% in quantity and 3.2% of monetary value. Accounting for 4 420 tonnes, representing 45% of the total Nile perch exports, Israel was the preferred country of destination for this species.

Nile perch is the most exportable species from the Kenyan waters. Nairobi is the largest domestic fish market and remains the preferred destination for fish landed at Lake Victoria, Naivasha, the marine coastline and even Tana River Dams. Gikomba and City Markets are the main fish markets in Nairobi. Central and Eastern Provinces are two other important domestic markets; they buy fish from the Tana River Dam fish farmers. Fish from Lake Tukana, Naivasha and even Lake Victoria also often are destined for the markets of the Rift Valley Province.

Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector

Role of fisheries in the national economy

The fishery resources of Kenya contribute to the national economy through foreign exchange earnings, employment generation, food security support and rural development.Of Kenya’s 2014 estimated population of 44.9 million, the fisheries sector provides employment to 2 million and livelihood for at least 2.3 millionpeople. The sector also brings in valuable foreign exchange to the government, earning some 0.5% of the Gross Domestic Product per annum.

Further, the thriving tourism industry based on the coral reefs in the important fishing ports of Malindi and Lamu in the Lamu Archipelago attracts revenue to the economy. There are currently over 1.6 million tourists visiting Kenya every year an appreciable percentage of whom are attracted by the recreational fishing.


The Nile perch is the most commercially- important species in the export trade, contributing about 90 percent in both volume and monetary value of Kenya’s total fish exports. Exportable Nile perch products include the fillet, fish maws, and the gutted, headless whole fish. Marine fish products such as crustaceans (prawns, lobsters and crabs), molluscs (octopus and squid) are also exported, just as other marine fish, freshwater crayfish, and small quantities of live ornamental fish are destined for the international markets.

International fish trade started in the early 1980s with the establishment of the Nile perch processing industry.

Kenya’s total fish export for 2007, 2008 and 2009 were 31 376 tonnes, 29 575 tonnes and 18 506 tonnes respectively, representing 13.4%, 13.3% and 7.8% of total annual catch, leaving between 70% and over 90% for local consumption within these periods.

Food security

A significant proportion of Kenya’s total fish catch caters to the protein needs of the local population. In 2007, 2008 and 2009, 86.6%, 86.7% and 92.2% of all fish caught from Kenyan waters were left for domestic consumption, thus contributing to the food security of the people. Kenya’s per capita fish consumption was placed at 5kg in 2011, and remained the same in 2014.

The contribution of fish to overall protein intake is low at 7.6% and this is attributable to the fact that many Kenyans do not regularly consume fish for historical or cultural reasons. However, Kenya’s fishing communities depend heavily on fish as a rich source of protein.

Engaging largely in subsistence fishing, fishers usually take part of their catch to their families, friends and relatives for food. This proportion of the catch is locally known as kitoweo. However, the prevailing decline of Lake Victoria’s natural fish stocks directly threatens food security and income for livelihoods of lakeside communities.


The fisheries sector generates employment for more than 2 000 000 Kenyans through fishing, gear and craft repair, fish processing and distribution, and other related activities.

As at 2008, 80 000 people were directly engaged as fishers and fish farmers while the sector provided livelihoods for about 2.3 million Kenyans mainly involved in fish processing and trade.

A total of 41 912 fishers were actively engaged in the Kenyan fisheries in 2010, while in 2011 capture fishery directly employed 62 232 fishers. And in 2014, a total of 12 915 fishers participated actively in the marine capture fishery alone.

Rural development

Fisheries and aquaculture play a significant role in the development and stabilization of Kenya’s rural communities, both coastal and riparian. The combined sector provides employment and income to large numbers of men and women, and food and social cohesion to entire families.

The most important industry in the riparian districts of Lake Victoria is arguably fisheries, with all its ramifications of fish capturing, processing, marketing, distribution and other ancillary services. This industry, whose basis is the all-ubiquitous Nile perch, underpins the artisanal and subsistence lifestyle of the region.

Communities living along Kenya’s lakes and coastline benefit further in terms of food security, as small-scale fishing is essential to their overall household wellbeing, providing both income and nutrient-rich food.

Trends, issues and development

Constraints and opportunities

Factors which significantly diminish fish and coral productivity, species richness and diversity of the entire Kenya coastline are silt deposition from rivers draining agricultural land, industrial and domestic effluents, and discharges from tanker traffic. Reefs from outside the designated marine reserves are often degraded and unknown quantities of shells and corals are often harvested from Shimoni, Lamu and Kiunga areas.

Though Kenya’s EEZ straddles the considerably rich tuna belt of the South West Indian Ocean (SWIO), exploitation of the resources is hampered by infrastructural limitations and inappropriate fishing craft and equipment. Artisanal fishers largely restrict their operations to the continental shelf because they are not well-equipped in terms of gear and craft to fish in the deep sea.

Lack of monitoring and surveillance capacity is the main cause of illegal fishing in Kenya’s distant waters. Small-scale migrant fishers from Tanzania also come from the south during the north-east monsoon and target very valuable species such as sharks, Carangidae, Lethrinidae and Siganidae.

Kenya lacks capacity to monitor the activities of the distant-water fishing fleet operating within its EEZ. Its nationally registered fishing fleet operating in its deep-waters is small, and as a result of this and other lapses, distant-water fishing fleet operating within its EEZ land more than 20 000 tonnes outside the country.

Government and non-government sector policies and development strategies

Kenya’s 2014-2017 National Nutrition Action Plan recognizes fisheries as one of the major sectors that contribute to the goals of the national nutrition agenda. Also, Vision 2030, its long-term development blueprint, recognizes the contributions of the fisheries sector towards transforming the country into an industrializing middle-income nation.

The Government of Kenya has launched its first ever Tuna Fisheries Development and Management Strategy, thereby upping its stake in the USD 4 billon global tuna fisheries industry. The Strategy which runs from 2013 to 2018 would build effective governance system of the marine fisheries sector by providing institutional framework to ensure compliance with relevant national laws and international standards and agreements. It aims to grow the country’s largely underdeveloped tuna supply chain that has rudimentary fishing vessels not capable of going beyond 20 nautical miles in undertaking tuna fishing. By so doing, Kenya’s tuna fishery would transform into productive and sustainable modern, commercially-oriented coastal and oceanic fisheries with direct positive impacts on employment, wealth creation, improved outcomes and foreign exchange earnings.

The Kenyan Government and the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) have in place the Blue Growth Initiative (BGI), which is aimed at helping select areas of the coastal region to develop fisheries and aquaculture. The Initiative is a FAO flagship strategy with the objective of promoting more productive, sustainable and socioeconomically responsible fisheries and aquaculture. BGI, in Kenya’s case, aims to address mariculture which is presently lagging behind the freshwater culture system, and is to be implemented through the Ecosystem Approach to Aquaculture (EAA). In this respect, FAO has developed two projects worth a total of USD 1 million, namely “In Support of Food Security and Nutrition, Poverty Alleviation and Healthy Oceans” and “ In Support of Implementation of Mariculture in Kenya Within an Ecosystems Approach”.

Research, education and trainingResearchKenya’s Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) is the State Corporation dedicated to conducting research, covering all the Kenyan waters and the riparian areas including Kenya’s EEZ in the Indian Ocean.

KMFRI and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) recently developed a new basket fish trap with escape gaps to reduce fish by-catch by allowing juvenile and non-target fish species to escape while increasing income. By enabling more undersized fish to escape, the traps minimize the impact of fishing on coastal reef systems and help fishing communities boost profits.The major Government Aquaculture Research Institutions are:
  • Sagana Fish Farm at Sagana, Kirinyaga District, Central Province.
  • Kiganjo Trout Farm at Sagana, Nyeri District, Central Province.
  • Moi University, Department of Fisheries, Eldoret, Uasin Gishu District, Rift Valley Province.
  • Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, Mombasa District, Coast Province.
Various Kenyan universities which offer degrees in fisheries and allied fields also conduct research in fisheries.

Education and training

Below are some Kenyan universities that offer academic programmes in fisheries and related fields

S/No. University Undergraduate Programme Graduate Programme Reference
1. University of Nairobi B.Sc. Fisheries and Aquaculture M.Sc. Fish Science http://www.uonbi.ac.ke/uon_programmes_type
2. Kenyatta University   M.Sc. Fisheries Science http://www.ku.ac.ke/index.php/academics/academic-programmes/masters-programmes-a-z
3 Egerton University B.Sc. Applied Aquatic Sciences  


4 Maseno University   M.Sc. Aquatic Sciences http://maseno.ac.ke/index/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=114&Itemid=150
5 Technical University of Mombasa B.Sc. Marine Resource Management   http://www.tum.ac.ke/programmes/degree
6 Pwani University B.Sc. Marine Biology & Fisheries PhD Fisheries http://www.pu.ac.ke/index.php/academics/2015-09-03-06-24-19/undergraduate
7 Kisii University B.Sc. Applied Aquatic Science

M.Sc. Fisheries and Aquaculture;

PhD Fisheries and Aquaculture



8 South-Eastern Kenya University B.Sc. Fisheries Management & Aquaculture Technology  


9 Moi University   MSc and PhD Fisheries with option in Aqucuculture

FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture -National Aquaculture Sector Overview -Kenya


In addition, the Ramogi Institute of Advanced Technology, Kisumu trains aquaculture professionals and the Kenya Wildlife Training Institute, Naivasha offers a diploma in Aquaculture.
Foreign aid

Kenya is in a key partnership with the Aquaculture and Fisheries Collaborative Research Support Program, known as AquaFish CRSP, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The Program has been helping improve Kenyan aquaculture since 1997.

Institutional frameworkKenya has a fully-fledged Ministry of Fisheries Development which is the responsible institution for the administration of fisheries and aquaculture, including enforcement of fisheries regulations, collecting and reporting statistics, licensing, fish quality assurance and control of imports and exports, and other related activities.

The Marine National Parks and the Marine National Reserves are all administered by the Kenya Wildlife Service.

The Kenya Fish Processors and Exporters Association (AFIPEK), an assembly of fish industries which have adopted self-regulatory mechanisms to ensure that sustainability is adhered to amongst its member-factories, collaborates with relevant government agencies to foster public recognition and support for the fisheries sector, to promote high quality fish and fish products and to advocate for the effective management of inland marine fish resources.

Other major stakeholders in the fisheries sector are the six franchised aqua-shops located at Funyula, Nambomboto, and Bukiri shopping centres within Samia; and Ahero, Katito and Oboch in Nyakach Districts respectively. These outlets are intended to deliver a wide range of affordable fisheries and aquaculture products and services, including the provision of inputs and technical advice.

Legal frameworkRegional and international legal framework

Kenya is Party to the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO) formed through a convention which was signed in 1994 by the three East African Community (EAC) Partner States of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania sharing Lake Victoria. It is also a signatory to many regional and international conventions, protocols and agreements that contain policies and guidelines for management of fisheries resources.

Also, the following Regional Fishery Bodies operate in Kenya:

  • The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)
  • The South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC), and
  • The Indian Ocean Commission (IOC)

In addition, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) to which Kenya belongs has a strategy on fisheries.

The major statutes that regulate and govern all fisheries activities in Kenya include the Fisheries Act (Cap 378) of 1989, and the Fisheries Regulation (1991). However, a new Fisheries Bill is in Parliament awaiting passage.The National Oceans and Fisheries Policy (2008) articulates comprehensive policy statements and guidelines for fisheries regulations.


Figure 13 – Kenya – Maps showing major water bodies, reserves, parks, etc
Figure 14 – Kenya – Map showing fish landing sites and other coastal features within the North Coast. (Source: Mbaru, Emmanuel Kakunde. Rhodes University (2012). An Assessment of the Kenyan Coastal Artisanal Fishery and Implications for the Introduction of FADs. M.Sc. thesis. http://www.oceandocs.org/bitstream/handle/1834/6844/ktf0252.pdf?sequence=1
Figure 15 – Kenya – Map showing fish landing sites and other coastal features. (Source: Mbaru, Emmanuel Kakunde. Rhodes University (2012). An Assessment of the Kenyan Coastal Artisanal Fishery and Implications for the Introduction of FADs. M.Sc. thesis. http://www.oceandocs.org/bitstream/handle/1834/6844/ktf0252.pdf?sequence=1

Figure 16 – Kenya – Map showing fish landing sites and other coastal features ( Source: ) Mbaru, Emmanuel Kakunde. Rhodes University (2012). An Assessment of the Kenyan Coastal Artisanal Fishery and Implications for the Introduction of FADs. M.Sc. thesis. http://www.oceandocs.org/bitstream/handle/1834/6844/ktf0252.pdf?sequence=1

Abila, Richard O. http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/y4961e/y4961e0d.htm.
Abila Richard O. (2003). Food Safety in Food Security. International Food Policy Research Institute, USA. http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/16556/1/fo031008.pdf.
AFIPEK http://www.afipek.org/.
Bjorndal Trond, Child Anna & Lem Audun (eds) (2014). FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper 581. Value chain dynamics and the small-scale sector. Policy recommendations for small-scale fisheries and aquaculture trade http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3630e.pdf.
East African Community, Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization www.lvfo.oeg .
Egerton University, Kenya http://www.egerton.ac.ke/index.php/Summary-of-Programmes/summary-of-programmes.html.
FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture -National Aquaculture Sector Overview –Kenya http://www.fao.org/fishery/countrysector/naso_kenya/en.
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