Man sues state over harassment of artisanal fishers

Fishermen in Lamu venturing into the Indian Ocean. The county government will soon start operating the Faza fish cold storage plant.

Photo credit: Kalume Kazungu I Nation Media Group.

A fisherman has sued the government challenging the arrests of his colleagues engaged in traditional or artisanal fishing along Kenya’s coastline.

Mr Mahamoud Abdalla Ali wants the High Court in Mombasa to bar the Kenya Fisheries Service, police and Kenya Coast Guard from arresting the fishermen or seizing their gear.

Artisanal fishing for subsistence, he argues, is an integral part of the way of life of coastal inhabitants.

Mr Ali has also sued the Kenya Fisheries Advisory Council, the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries and the Attorney-General.

He alleges that the sued entities have been arresting local fishers in Lamu County and seizing their equipment after accusing them of violating the Fisheries Management and Development Act.

Enforcing the Act, Mr Ali argues, is destroying the meagre livelihoods of traditional fishing communities in coastal counties and thus harming the economy and living standards of residents.

“The Act was enacted into law without direct active or passive public participation, civic education and capacity building of the coast fishing community and the provisions of the Act are onerous and deleterious to their liberty, property, livelihood and living standards,” Mr Ali argues in court papers.

The use of monofilament nets and beach seine nets for fishing, he says, is a traditional and long-standing artisanal fishing practice among Lamu inhabitants.

Mr Ali says that the High Court in Nairobi, in a petition filed in 2012, had ruled that fishing is the mainstay of communities on the Coast and that the fishermen were to be provided with modern fishing gear by, among others, the Fisheries Department.

“The national government through the State Department for Fisheries, the Kenya Fisheries Service and the county governments have not provided fishermen engaged in artisanal fishing with modern fishing gear,” the court documents say.

The petitioner wants an injunction issued pending the full payment of compensation ordered by the High Court in Nairobi and the supply of modern equipment to artisanal fishermen in the Coast region.

Justice John Mativo has directed that the case be mentioned on January 25.

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