IPNLF – Maldives Coordinator, Mohamed Muththalib, visited the Lamu Archipelago earlier this month to investigate the possibility of a new pole-and-line tuna fishery.
In support of Mombasa’s Fishery Department coastal fishery development project, the International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) plunged into a new ocean of opportunity this April, scoping out whether there is potential for a sustainable pole-and-line skipjack fishery to thrive in the Lamu Archipelago, Kenya. Most artisanal fisheries with Lamu fish coastal waters; the government’s new initiative, ‘Fishing Beyond the Reefs’, aims to understand and provide techniques, technologies and the gears needed to allow local people to expand and develop sustainable, commercial offshore fisheries.

Mohamed Muthalib (IPNLF’s Coordinator – Maldives), was accompanied by Hussain Muthalib, (Captain of Rankuri Dhoni, Gaafu Alifu, Maldives), on a nine-day trip around the small town Island of Lamu. The trip was organised by the IPNLF team, alongside Hussain Sinan, Director, Ministry of Fisheries & Agriculture, Maldives, and the Kenyan ‘Fishing Beyond the Reefs’ programme coordinators Kennedy Shakimi and Elizabeth Mouen. Lamu was chosen as the pilot site to carry out the initial pole-and-line skipjack tuna fishing trials, with the hopes that, if successful, the programme could expand into other Kenyan counties. The main objective of the trip was to identify ways for IPNLF to support Mombasa in the development of responsible skipjack pole-and-line fisheries.

Over the nine day trip, Mohamed Muthalib and Hussain Muthalib shared their pole-and-line fishing expertise with the Lamu fishers, boat owners and county officials regarding the planning, preparation and training needed for successful pole-and-line skipjack fishing. Through a series of seminars, workshops and fishing trips the fishers were instructed how to: set up their poles and lines, tie the correct knots and attach the hooks, set up the baitfish tank, fish for baitfish, locate a shoal of free swimming tuna, and fish for skipjack using the pole-and-line technique. Needless to say, unsuccessful attempts highlighted the challenges that need to be overcome in order to have a sustainable, responsible fishery pole-and-line tuna fishery.

After evaluating the evidence from this initial scoping trip, it was concluded that the area has a suitable stock of baitfish species and a suitable abundance of skipjack tuna in order to support a thriving, sustainable skipjack pole-and-line fishery. However, in order for this to take shape, it was advised that Maldivian style pole-and-line vessels with appropriate technology need to be acquired, further baitfish research need s to be conducted to ensure that the baitfishery is sustainable, and finally, that the Lamu fishers visit the Maldivian pole-and-line fishery to get a hands-on experience.

This preliminary trip was a great eye-opener, and learning curve for IPNLF, the Kenyan government and Lamu county officials. The Kenyan offshore waters are full of possibility for their coastal communities and with the right support and guidance, IPNLF hopes that these coastal communities could thrive off a sustainable, responsible pole-and-line fishery, and a hand-line yellowfin fishery.