Marine cage farming has not been adopted well along the Kenyan coast in the last decade.
Experimental cage culture has been done by Kenya Marine Fisheries and Research Institute (KMFRI) using wooden square and rectangular cages.
Following the wave strength wooden cages are less durable lasting for one and a half to two years.
However, the challenge has drawn the attention of the Japanese government through JICA to partner with KMFRI through the Department for Blue Economy and Fisheries to develop new technology of introducing high-density plastic cages that are circular and of commercial size of 10 meters in diameter.
JICA has engaged engineers from the Philippines where cage culture has progressed well.
Speaking at Kijiweni port in Kwale county, assistant director of marine aquaculture at KMFRI Dr.David Mirera, said the circular cages were deployed at Kijiweni port after research was done.
“In the last three weeks the engineers have been working with KMFRI technical staff to fabricate the cage here in Kijiweni and prepare it to be stocked with fish,” said Mirera.
The assistant director added that one of such cages will hold over 8,000 rabbit fish or over 15,000 milkfish in one culture cycle thus able to provide over 10 tons of fish per harvest expected to be done twice per year.
“The government suggested that KMFRI should partner with JICA in implementing this new technology because we have skilled divers, technologists, scientists, and marine pilots who can coordinate and ensure the project is successful. This technology will ensure commercial cage farming benefits the country and East Africa region,” he added.
He said the technology is a game changer in the fish industry along the Kenyan coast for it is climate change resilient.
To support the intervention KMFRI will also provide two similar cages to be deployed in the same area making the total number of cages to be three with the capability of holding 21,000 fish in one go.
In addition to fish farming, the HDPE cage is also envisioned to hold brood stock for breeding at the NAMARET hatchery that is being developed by the government to help supply fingerlings to the farmers.
On his part, INCA Philippines Assistant Vice President for Projects Engineer Willam B. Reorizo Jr., said the circular cages are more suitable compared to rectangular and wooden cages.
“This is the best design for the Kijiweni community because it cannot be affected by strong waves and can hold many fingerlings, for example in the Philippines circular cage can hold over 20,000 fingerlings and harvest around 10 tons of fish in three to four months,” said Reorizo.
Hamad Kombo Hamad a fisherman in Kijiweni who specialises in fingerling fishing is expecting to reap heavy from the circular cage projects.
“Before I used to sell fingerlings at a very low price of Shs 7 to 10 per fingerlings but now I am optimistic that JICA and KMFRI will buy fingerlings at a good price that will benefit me because fingerlings need special attention after fishing or else you may counter a very big loss because they can easily die with poor handling, “said Hamad.
Kijiweni Beach Management Unit Vice Chair Bakari Mnyeto, said that the project will be beneficial to the Kijiweni community.
“We used to manage wooden cages that were very challenging because they could not sustain heavy waves but for this new technology we are optimistic that even fishermen will reap from the rabbitfish that is seasonal,” he said.
He added that dealers can buy a kilogram of rabbit fish up to Shs 250 to 270.
In Kenya where the increasing population has increased the demand for food, about 1.3 million people face food insecurity and poor nutrition.
Fish contributes to more than half of the total animal protein intake in Kenya.
Along the Kenyan coast, more than 200,000 people meet their livelihoods through fishing and trading in fish and fish products.
On the south coast of Kenya, in particular, artisanal fisheries make a vital contribution to local community livelihoods.
Fish is considered as the most readily available and affordable source of animal protein for the local communities but the contribution of small-scale fisheries towards food provision and improvement of livelihoods has been rarely considered.
Additionally, fishing households arguably consume more fish compared to non-fishing households.