Fuel shortage slams brakes on Lamu's deep-sea fishing

Fishermen mend nets in Lamu island on April 14, 2022. Fishermen are lacking enough fuel for their boats to venture into the deep sea.

Photo credit: Kalume Kazungu I Nation Media Group

An acute fish shortage looms in Lamu County owing to the persistent fuel crisis in Kenya.

The most affected fishermen are those dealing with tuna, which is only found in the deep seas.

But fishermen lack enough fuel for their boats.

Nation.Africa established that many fishing vessels in key fishing hubs across the Lamu archipelago, such as Kiwayu, Kizingitini, Kiunga, Shela, Mkokoni, Matondoni, Kipungani, Tenewi, Bomani and Lamu Island, are grounded due to the fuel shortage.

Lamu County Fisheries Officer Simon Komu said the crisis has greatly affected deep-sea fishing.

Mr Komu said tuna fishing, for instance, requires the fishers to go not less than 20 to 30 nautical miles into the Indian Ocean.

“That means for the tuna fishers, they need to have enough fuel in their boats to make this possible. Since the fuel shortage began, many of the fishermen here can’t (work), meaning even the tuna catch has already dwindled,” he said.

Lamu County Beach Management Unit (BMU) Network chairperson Mohamed Somo said they are not making any profits, as they must purchase fuel at higher prices, go fishing and end up selling the fish at the same prices or even for lesser.

Mr Somo said tuna fishers’ boats consume at least 60 litres of petrol on every fishing expedition, which costs more than Sh12,000.

“We normally sell a kilo of tuna in our local market for between Sh250 and Sh300, but recently, the price has dwindled. We’re now selling at only Sh150 or Sh200 per kilo,” he said. 

“The unfortunate thing is that petrol prices have shot up. We don’t get any profit after consuming tens of litres of petrol. That’s why many fishing boats have been parked here. No business anymore.” 

Lamu Town Fishermen and Dealers Association chairperson Abubakar Twalib said the fuel shortage has hurt the fishing sector.

The price of petrol, he said, has greatly increased and most fishermen cannot afford the high prices.

“We used to buy a litre of petrol for Sh140. Now, we’re getting the same petrol at Sh200 or Sh250 per litre. Most of us have quit the venture until the fuel crisis is resolved,” said Mr Twalib.

Lamu Municipality Officer Abdallah Ahmed lamented that the fuel crisis had reduced the revenue collected along the beach because fewer fishermen are going out into the sea.

“Before the fuel crisis began, there were many fishermen working and that means revenue collection was good. Nowadays, very few fishermen are operating and the revenue we collect has greatly reduced,” he said.

Swaleh Musa, a fisherman, said the situation has led to massive job losses.

“I have five children who need to eat. I don’t go fishing anymore. I can’t afford the costly fuel. My boat has for the past two weeks been parked in the yard just like that,” he said.

He added: “Schools will reopen soon and we don’t know where we will get school fees.”

Lamu has over 7,000 fishermen across the archipelago.

At least half of them have been affected by the fuel crisis.