The Kenyan government said Monday it will expand its venture on maritime research with the launch of the new vessel in the Indian Ocean, which has recorded reduction of piracy incidents off the coast of Somalia.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) will use the 56-meter RV Zeeleeuw to undertake cruise research in the Indian Ocean waters.
“Our lack of an offshore research vessel for oceanographic study and stock assessment has been a major obstacle. Similarly, our monitoring, control and surveillance of these fisheries would now be improved by the offshore patrol vessel,” he said when he commissioned the research sea vessel in Mombasa.
The vessel, the largest of its kind in the region, was donated by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) and the Fund for Scientific Research in Belgium for fisheries research and conservation of marine life in the Indian Ocean.
The KMFRI’s RV Mtafiti sea vessel will undertake physical, chemical, geological and biological oceanography research besides carrying out fisheries stock assessment within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Kenyatta said the ship will also be utilized for exploratory experimental fishing to establish suitable means for the optimal exploitation of marine fisheries.
“We are a significant maritime nation. Though no complete stock assessment has been carried out, various studies show that this fishery is under-exploited,” Kenyatta said.
The president said lack of an offshore research vessel for oceanographic study and stock assessment has been a major obstacle to research and management of marine stocks.
He regretted the loss of up to 117 million U.S. dollars a year to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing out of 140.4 million dollars estimated by the Marine Fisheries Taskforce estimated four years ago.
The Kenyan waters in the Indian Ocean have been major hunting grounds for Somali pirates in the last couple of years with millions of dollars being paid in ransom to free hostages and cargo in hijacked ships.