Kenya has withdrawn fishing licences of six Chinese vessels for allegedly mistreating local seafarers on board and using illegal gears.
The vessels were authorised by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission to fish along the Indian Ocean from January 1 this year to December 31, 2031.
Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) head of commercial shipping John Omingo said they de-registered the vessels following complaints from Kenyan crew.
“KMA de-listed the Chinese fleet after multi-agency recommendations. They were found guilty of contravening Kenyan fishing laws. The vessels de-listed are Lu Qing Yuan Yu 160, Lu Qing Yuan Yu 158, Lu Qing Yuan Yu 155, Lu Qing Yuan Yu 157, Lu Qing Yuan Yu 156 and Lu Qing Yuan Yu 159,” said Mr Omingo.
He added, “We have already communicated to the owner of these vessels who are Qinsdad Yung Tung-Pelagic Fisheries Limited regarding withdrawal of their licences.”
Last week, tens of Kenyan registered seafarers working in Chinese vessels raised concern over torture and mistreatment, including being forced to engage in illegal businesses in the ocean.
Most of them confessed to have been threatened to be thrown into the sea if they do not cooperate despite being recruited by a reputable placement agent.
The withdrawal comes at a time when Kenya is struggling to monitor its waters after French based Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS) suspended its monitoring services over 10 months payment arrears amounting to more than Sh16 million. Kenya failed to pay CLS; a subsidiary of the French Space Agency, which has been offering data collection and sea monitoring services forcing the company to suspend its services at the Vessel Monitoring Centre at Liwatoni, Mombasa. This leaves Kenya vulnerable to foreign trawlers.
CLS did fisheries management, environmental monitoring, maritime surveillance, fleet management, and energy and mining. It processes environmental data and positions from 80,000 beacons per month, and ocean and inland waters observations. It also monitors land and sea activities by satellite.
Vessel Monitoring System
Kenya has been monitoring its waters using Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) and the MV Doria, as well as with assistance from other countries. But with the system failing and lack of funds to operate MV Doria, the country relies on other nations for monitoring.
Kenya loses 11-26 million tonnes of seafood annually due to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing activities along its territorial waters. Kenya’s foreign fishing licensing has always been shrouded in secrecy, with number of licensed vessels remaining undisclosed.
Between May and August 1, the East African, through the Global Fish Watch tracker site, managed to compile more than 230 fishing vessels within its waters undertaking deep sea fishing.
Most of these vessels are foreign-owned, with China, Seychelles, Italy, Taiwan, and Hong Kong-flagged vessels, appearing multiple times on the tracking site, recording more than 50,000 fishing hours within Kenyan waters.