Kenya Marine and Fisheries research institute was established in 1979 as a result of an enactment of the Science and Technology (Amendment) Act, and was charged with the responsibility of conducting research and making management recommendations essential for the national exploitation of living and non-living aquatic resources in the ocean waters, as well as the fresh water in the hinterland. The institute is managed by a board of management and undertakes research activities in close consultation with and under general supervision of National Council for Science and Technology within the portfolio of the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife. The research programme of the Institute are divided into two groups, namely marine sector research and fresh water research sector. It was noticed that in addition to the long term established objectives of providing scientific basis for management of natural resources, the institute should also be prepared to respond to the rapid rising public interest in the preservation of environmental quality problems are likely to develop in the inshore waters, including the estuaries and the areas whereby there is increases human activities with a likelihood of affecting the fisheries.

Mr. Samuel Alela 1979-1990

On the basis of this, the institute embarked on expanding the training programme to provide the staff necessary for the institute to expand its fisheries work, oceanography, aquaculture, limnology, and environmental studies in the marine environmental studies in the marine and fresh water. In deciding on the expansion, it was recognized that an active programme in the aquaculture especially the declining species in L. Victoria and associated rivers could not be undertaken without adequate facilities, it was therefore decided to construct the Sangoro Sub-station to carry out studies on the anadromous species of the Lake Victoria.

It was also decided to equip Kisumu and Turkana Laboratories with adequate research vessels. Two vessels were purchased and one put into service during the year. These were the 50ft. R.V. Utafiti which is based in Kisumu and 35ft. vessel which is being fitted with a trawl winch for Lake Turkana Laboratory. In principal it was agreed that the institute needs an ocean going vessel basically a stern trawler desgined to have the capability for both fisheries and oceanographywith laboratory facilities for scientists on board.

Considerable progress was made in the selection of sites and development plans for Sangoro, Gogo  substations and Turkana laboratory. There has been problems of office accommodation in Kisumu and Mombasa Laboratories. The Kisumu problem has been eased after the construction of the temporary office blocks for administration division while in Mombasa the situation is still critical. It is hoped that if funds will be made available in the near future office will be constructed for the administration division. The internal organization of the institute has received an attention during the year. It has been decided that research activities should be organized through a small number of disciplinary groups which shall then cooperate as required in the interdisciplinary projects. 

The main objectives of the marine sector situated at Mombasa are to collect and consolidate all available marine fishery resources data, which provide information for development. In addition, Mombasa Laboratory aims at undertaking research programs which lead to the understanding of most of the economically important species which help in the biological monitoring of the of their stock characteristics for proper management, and conservation, in addition to conducting exploratory and experimental surveys. In addition and with the realization of the importance of environmental of environmental factors and their effects on living resources, the Mombasa Laboratory also carry out research programs on the pshyico-chemical parameters essential for the planned conservation and management. Of particular importance, is the research on the effects of oil pollution and the resultant environmental degradation, particularly on the reef ecosystem with emphasis on effects of pollutants of hydrocarbon origin on the breeding and recruitment pattern of the near shore marine species of commercial importance.

The freshwater section now centered at Kisumu was prior to 1979 had research programs directed towards the Biological studies of fishes in Lake Victoria. Little work was carried out in Lake Turkana, Lake Naivasha and Lake Baringo. The institution has since changed and the Lake Turkana Laboratory is now well established and with joint NORAD/Kenya Research Project more information will be made available.

In Lake Victoria, in particular both Nile Perch Lates niloticus and the tilapia Seratherodon niloticus form the great part of the commercial fisheries together with Engraulycypris sp. However, in spite of the past works their biology is not well known in the lake. In addition, both Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana as well as Rivers, the status and state of anadromous species is still obscure. Environmental studies in those lakes and rivers which are now subjected to a lot of pollution are being carried out on both man-made and natural.

During the past years, Kenya had witnessed the greatest dam construction for hydroelectric production. Although the resulting reservoirs have led to increased fishing activities especially along the Tana River the effects of dams on the river ecology downstream is not known. A riverine laboratory was established at Sangoro on river Sondu geared towards establishment of breeding techniques of the most important species. The institute laboratory at Ferguson Gulf of Lake Turkana after completion will take care of other Rift Valley lakes with Sub-stations at lake Baringo and Naivasha.

Lastly, it may be appropriate at this stage to touch on the need of providing the Institute with suitable and trained manpower. In this regard and with the help of government agencies, the institute has embarked on long-term training programmed aimed at providing highly qualified scientists. The institute has in the past three years sponsored eight research officers for post graduate studies at the University of Tokyo, two to U.S.A universities, Austria, Belgium, Norway, and one U.K for PhD. The biological Oceanography Project which is a Kenya/Belgium Cooperation has been launched and will take four years is aimed at studying most of the inshore waters as well as the mangrove ecosystem.

Dr. Ezekiel Okemwa PhD 1990-2000

Dr. Ezekiel Okemwa became the Director of KMFRI after the founder Director Mr. Allela got transferred to head KIPPO in 1990. The institute continued to undertake and expand research projects under new impetus of international and local institutional collaboration particularly in marine research. Funding was made available through the Kenya Belgium Project (KBP) and KMFRI from European Economic Community (EEC). This new funding arrangement enabled the biological chemical and physical oceanographic projects to continue. The University of Nairobi was able to team up with KMFRI on new fishery project under the same fund. Pollution studies received a fresh input when KMFRI was selected as the regional representative of the East African regional sea programme and funds allocated for pollution studies.

Most of the projects initiated under this fresh funding were geared towards ecological studies and aimed at improving our present knowledge of the functioning of various ecosystems along the Kenya coast. Like in the previous year, most of the work focused on the Southern Kenyan coast. More attention was paid to Gazi creek, where the environmental data collected will be used for ecological modeling of the creek. In Kilindini and Tudor Creeks work continued on pollution, hydrography and seasonal variation of physical and chemical parameters.

Fishery programmes were oriented towards better understanding of problem as relates to the development of fisheries and monitoring of fish stocks for sustainable utilization and proper management. The oyster progrmamme continued to be important for the dissemination of aquaculture techniques to local fisheries entrepreneurs. Fishermen were encouraged to adopt this low cost technique for shallow coastal areas. Action was taken to merge certain projects in KBP-EEC, Delta Institute for marine sciences and KMFRI so that fresh inputs could be aimed at mangrove ecosystems, nutrient fluxes and other fishery oriented environmental parameters.

Offshore research focusing on the Kenyan continental shelf, for the first time ,showed a remarkable international collaboration. Joint proposal between KMFRI researchers and counterparts in the Netherlands at Delta Institute and the Netherlands Marine Research Foundation (SOZ), were drafted, submitted to the Netherlands government and approved for funding under the Kenya-Dutch Cooperation and as component programs within the Indian Ocean Programme 1992-1993. The projects under Kenya-Dutch cooperation were aimed at studying the impact of monsoon on the Kenya ecosystems aboard the Netherlands Research Vessel R.V Tryo. A land based programme and a pre-cruise training were also approved for funding. The expedition by R.V Tyro and the training were scheduled to take place in Kenya in June – July 1992 and Nov – Dec 1992. Kisumu laboratory continued to be the center for freshwater studies. Research efforts on Nile perch and Oerochromis spp continued. Significant progress was made in developing a new method of collecting fishery data from various landing sites. 

Dr. Johnson Kazungu PhD 2000-2014

During this period the institute experience a lot of infrastructure development like building of the conference facility and also additional office housing the SWIOF project. Also the Marine and Resource centre building was initiated during this period.

The 5-year research strategic vision of the Kenya marine and fisheries research institute is an outcome of consultative workshop held at Mombasa and Kisumu held in 1999 to chart the way forward for research in both coastal and inland waters. The strategy is partly based on the approved 2010 research strategic document that mapped out six key programs namely, the fisheries research programme, the aquaculture research programme, the environmental and ecological research programme, the natural products research programme, the information and data base management programme and the socio-economic research programme. In developing the strategic vision for different programs, the institute was guided by the policies spelt in National Development Plans and sessional papers as well as the need of specific stakeholders. The strategy also took cognizant of emerging issues in the sector in Kenya and abroad.

The goal of the Marine and Coastal Waters Division Fisheries Research Programme is to assess the stock of fish in our marine and coastal waters as well as understand their dynamics and the interactions with the environment and the humans. Marine fisheries programme will undertake key issues driven research projects focusing on:

  • The assessment of Malindi Ungwana Bay fisheries
  • Fisheries resources evaluation and management
  • The assessment of the shimoni vanga fisheries
  • The collection of fish landing statistics
  • Understanding the biology of key commercial and non-conventional fishing

Aquaculture Research Programme in the Marine and Coastal Waters Division is one of the central research programs in the institute. The programme will undertake research focusing on:

  • The introduction of tilapia, catfish and crab culture to the coastal communities.
  • Establishment of pilot community based on aquaculture
  • Development of seed and fry production capability
  • Aquaculture nutrition
  • Stock enhancement and biodiversity restoration
  • Genetic manipulation and selective breeding of fish
  • Fish diseases management

Marine and Coastal Waters Research Division Environment and Ecology Research Programme focuses mainly on research that will facilitate sustainable use and protection of marine and coastal resources particularly fisheries, mangroves, coral reefs and sea grass beds. The need to protect critical habitats and maintain water quality is a priority if fisheries in the coastal and marine waters are to be sustained on long-term basis.

The Marine and Coastal Waters Research Division Natural Waters Research Programme focuses on the extraction of products from aquatic plants and animals for use in various industries. The programme will focus on the (1) chitin and chitosan development, (2) screening of the selected flora and fauna for bioactive compounds, (3) development of duckweed for aquaculture and (4) quality assurance for fish and fish products.

The Socio-Economic Research Programme has formulated a strategy that focuses on the (1) evaluation of the performance of the fisheries sector, (2) establishment of the relationship between the marine and the coastal resources and the rising human pressure and (3) coastal and marine natural resource evaluation.
Data and Information Management Programme (IDM) in the Marine and Coastal Water Division, focuses on the provision and maintenance of quality data and information on meteorology, oceanography and coastal environment, for scientific research and national decision-making.

In Inland Waters Research Division, the goal of the Fisheries Research Programme is to develop management strategies for inland fisheries in order to allow for sustainable utilization. The programme will carry out research in fish biology, ecology and conservation, stock assessment and fish diseases in inland lakes such as Lake Turkana, Victoria, Baringo and Naivasha.

The focus of the Aquaculture Research Programme aims at the development of strategies for sustainability of the fisheries and aquaculture activities. The key priority areas that will be addressed in the next five years includes the assessment of the pollution status of the inland waters, causes of occasional fish kills in Lake Victoria, impact of water hyacinth infestation, the impact of Mbita cause way on water circulation, conflicting water demands in Lakes Naivasha, Baringo and Turkana, siltation in Lake Baringo and algal blooms in Lake Victoria.

Natural Products Research Programme in the Inland Waters Division will focus in research on the total quality assurance of fish and fishery products, cultivation of aquatic plants and animals with various potential pharmaceutical uses, development of techniques for reducing post-harvest losses of fish and development of laboratory analytical techniques for testing the quality of fish destined for local and export markets.

Inland Fisheries Socio-Economic Research Programme will focus on research aimed at influencing attitudes and policies in the fisheries sector as well as established impacts of social, economic and environmental changes in the riparian communities. The programme will link the Institute with the fishing communities. The Information and Database Management Programme aims at developing integrated information flow network linking various research stations in inland waters and abroad.

In order to achieve targets set in the 5-year research strategic plan, the institute will promote multidisciplinary research in which expertise from both inland and Coastal Marine Research Stations will be mobilized to address specific issues. Linkages with key stakeholders will also be promoted. This will not only improve on the research problem identification and eventual acceptance of research findings, but will also be used as a way of soliciting for funds for research. This in the long run will play an important role in supplementing the meager budgetary allocation from the central government.

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