Why fresh fish is expensive delicacy in the Coast region

Wednesday, August 4th, 2021 00:00 | By
Hashim Bwanamkuu (left) buys fish from a local trader at Kibokoni Old Town Mombasa. Photo/PD/Boniface Msangi

That Francis Opondo is a passionate fish consumer is not in doubt. However, if there is a meal he has vowed to avoid ordering at any Coast region eatery; it is fried fish.

Opondo, a resident of Nairobi, recalls day he walked into a seafood restaurant in Lamu, ordered fried fish and ugali only for the accompanying bill to instantly kill his appetite.

He was slapped with a bill of Sh750.

“I never expected that a piece of fish could cost Sh750. As I was halfway with my meal, one of the attendants brought the bill and I was shocked.

My appetite vanished,” Opondo recalls as he explains he would later be cautioned to be wary of high prices for fresh fish at the Coast region.

Retail price

Most families on the Kenyan coastline are increasingly finding fish delicacy expensive. 

For most people, the situation is an irony considering the adjacent Indian Ocean is supposed to oversupply the region with fish.

Said Athman, a resident of Majengo area in Mombasa says fish; which has remained his family’s favourite meal for decades; is now eaten occasionally, probably during weddings.

The father of four says the commodity which was easily available at a reasonable price, now cost as high as Sh700 per kilogram at retail price up from Sh250 some years back.

“My favourite meal is fish and ugali, but it has become too expensive,” says  Athman.

Mzee Twahir Zuber; a fisherman with 50 years experience, says a kilogramme of yellow fin Tuna- has gone up from Sh400 to Sh650 while mixed fish package which comprises scavenger fish, rabbit fish and mullet fish is up from Sh300 to Sh450 per kilogramme.

“Local fishermen have nothing to celebrate. I have not gone deep-sea fishing  for the past one month due to strong winds,” said Mzee Twahir Zuber, a fisherman.

“What you can get easily at the market is imported frozen fish which sell at a lower price compared to fresh fish from the sea,” says Hashim Bwanamkuu, a fish vendor at Mwembe Tayari Mombasa..

Hussein Ismail; a fisherman who also owns a fishing boat in Kipini , Lamu county narrates how fishing has become expensive with little return.

“I have over 10 fishermen, some have decided to start other businesses. Imagine  using  over 45 litres of petrol for deep sea fishing and you come out with less than a tonne of fish,” asked Ismail.

Poor fishing techniques, destruction of breeding sites and climate change are some of the issues blamed for  the fish shortage.

According to Benard Okeyo; a don at the Pwani University’s environmental science department, climate change has a major factor in interfering with fish breeding and production at the sea.

He attributed the rise in temperature, increase of acidity levels, increase of sea water level and heavy winds as some of the major factors which influence fish breading and productivity.

“Increase of ocean temperature affects marine species and ecosystems, rising temperature also cause coral bleaching and loss of breeding grounds for marine fish and mammals,” said Okeyo.

Okeyo said aquaculture fishing is gaining momentum and might give marine fishing a challenge, if action is not taken to protect marine life and control greenhouse gas emission which lead to rising ocean temperature .

Urgent need

“Protection of mangrove, sea grass, meadows, algae and planktons are key as they help in absorbing carbondioxide reducing rising ocean temperature,” the don adds.

Kenya Wildlife Service research officer Siriya Karisa said there is an urgent need by both levels of government to increase funding, to facilitate effective fight against plastic litter in the counties that has resulted in sea pollution.

Marine experts, also warn that cutting of mangrove forest along the Coast-line has interfered with breeding of fish as they shelter variety of marine species including some commercially important fish.

National Environment Management Authority Mombasa county Director Samuel Lopokoit, said dilapidated sewerage which discharges raw sewage to the sea is another threat to marine environment.

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