The recent deal signed by the government of Kenya to allow EU ships to catch Tuna and Shrimp off the Kenyan coast needs a lot of caution. For, the deal might deplete fish stocks vital to poor coastal communities.

For, a very long time now local and foreign owned fishing vessels have fished along Kenyan waters contrary to the FAO International Plan of Action for the Management of Fishing Capacity and the Terromolinos Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels among other agreements.

All fishing vessels owned localy are very old. Old fishing vessels pose more than just a risk to the crews that sail on them.

When their value is so low they are prime candidates for illegal operations as the possibility of the vessels being impounded carries very little financial risk for the owner.

As with many elderly ships, the value of the catch is likely to be many times the value of the vessels itself.

The fact that the average of the local and the world’s industrial fishing fleet has become as high as 22 years is a source of great concern and is not compatible with the concept of sustainable development. There is a clear need for an effective scrapping program as well as a better management of the fishing fleet capacity, one which would also pay due regard to the availability of resources to prevent and eliminate excess fishing capacity.

There is also a need of harmonizing the Fishieries Act and the Merchant Shipping Act. There is also a need of observing paragraph 17.52 of Agenda 21 and the FAO Code of conduct for responsible fisheries requirements which states that flag states should provide full, detailed, accurate and timely reporting of catches and the fishing effort of vessels flying their flag.

Recognizing the regional nature of the problem, the seafarers Union of Kenya is concerned about illegal fishing in Kenya and Somali waters and the failure of some flag states to control fishing vessels flying their flag.

In recent years a series of resolutions have been adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during the annual debate on “ Oceans and the law of the sea”

In highlighting the threat to the world’s oceans, the UN Secretary – General and the General Assembly have placed particular emphasis on the need to eradicate illegal fishing.

In October 2000 a resolution was adopted which called on states to: “Deter re-flagging of fishing vessels flying their flag to avoid compliance with applicable obligations and to ensure that fishing vessels entitled to fly their flag do not fish in areas under national jurisdiction of other states unless duly authorized by the authorities of the states concerned and in accordance with the conditions set out in the authorization, and that they do not fish on the high seas in contravention of the applicable conservation and management measures”.

As 90% of commercially important fishing stocks lie within the exclusive economic zone of Kenyan waters we call upon the Kenya government to be more vigilant on our territorial waters.

Although the EU deal will create employment to Kenyan seafarers we suffice to say that the international instruments on environment social and economy should be observed.

Labour Standards

400 Kenya seafarers serve on foreign flagged vessels, 107 work on domestically owned or registered fishing vessels.

All of them are under paid and they work in slave- like conditions aboard under manned sub-standard ships of, which is contrary to ILO Instruments.

For, they ‘re paid less than US$ 100.00 contrary to the ILO minimum wage of US$465.00.

The ILO minimum wage takes into consideration a formula, which reflects changes in consumer prices and exchange rates against the US Dollar in forty-nine maritime countries and areas.

Apart from being under paid they work without proper working gear as well as balanced diet. Kenyan seafarers also work aboard vessels operating in war like operations areas without being paid a bonus of which is contrary to international labor standards. The international labor standards states that when a vessel enters into an area where warlike operations take place, the crew member should be paid a bonus amounting to double the basic wage for the duration of the vessels stay in such area.

Similarly the compensation for disability and death shall be doubled.

As this is contrary to the declaration on fundamental principles and rights of workers we call upon the government of Kenya to take appropriate action unto this matter.

Andrew Mwangura
Organizing Secretary
Seafarers Union of Kenya.

P.O. Box 92273
Mombasa,80102 Kenya.
Tel: 00254 41 312058
Cell:00254 721 393458
Fax: 00254 41 230001
E Fax:18014093908