We take a look at the state of the aquarium industry in Kenya, and its social impact on local society.
Kenyan aquarium market
There is still a lot to be done to improve the state of the aquarium industry in Kenya despite the country ranking among the best performing nations within the Western Indian Ocean region operating in this sector. To date, only eight export companies are licensed in Kenya with only two companies dominating this market, and representing a 65% share of all revenue. This percentage has been based on data collected from air freights.
For ten years, Kenya Marine Center has been a major supplier of ornamental fish, invertebrates and corals to the European, American and Asian markets, where most of its clients are based.
“The supply network in Kenya is fairly simple, running directly from the collectors to the exporters and straight to the export market. There are no middlemen involved in Kenya’s trade,” explains Jochen Federschmied, CEO of the Kenya Marine Center.
The exporters contract local fish collectors who are paid according to a fixed price per healthy fish determined for each species to the storage facilities. The price paid to the collectors varies among companies and is competitive as it is determined by various factors including the size of the fish, market demand, rarity, catchability, ornamentation, and seasonal abundance.
There are two groups of fishermen: the deep sea (scuba) divers and the shallow water divers. Most of the fish collectors are men aged 25 to 42 years, with an average age of 34 years. Scuba teams set out to fish in large groups of 5 to 10 fishermen, while snorkelers fish alone or in pairs.
All fishermen are under strict orders from the company to use only their hands and nets to catch fish and invertebrates. This is in line with the Kenyan Fisheries Act (Cap 378). However, there is no fishing quota, except for those listed on the CITES list, such as the seahorse (Hippocampus spp).
Social impact of aquarium industry
The aquarium industry has led to the financial independence of a substantial number of young people. The Kenya Marine Center alone employs between 30 to 40 fishermen on a permanent basis of whom 80% are aged between 21 to 35 years.
In Kenya children are seen as a source of social security and most families have two to five children, or more. These families look for employment by ornamental fish export companies to gain access to a regular source of income and save themselves from poverty. The children will in turn take care of the elderly as they age.
Through sponsorship, the Kenya Marine Center has initiated programmes in local children’s homes to motivate and engage them as a way of giving back to the society and supporting community development.
One of the many things the Kenya Marine Center offers to society is access to their facilities for university students of Marine Biology, who are interested in doing research for their thesis in the subject.
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