Research Article

Evaluating Kenya’s coastal gillnet fishery: trade-offs in recommended mesh-size regulations


Gillnets are a widely used fishing gear in Kenya’s artisanal fisheries, yet their mesh sizes are inadequately monitored or regulated. This study evaluated the impacts of gillnets of seven stretched-mesh sizes, through comparative analysis of species-related metrics and catch per unit effort (CPUE), to inform Kenya’s small-scale fisheries regulations. Data were collected from June 2014 to May 2015. Three mesh-size groups were identified from catch composition data using non-metric multidimensional scaling and comprised small (1.3, 5.1 and 7.6 cm), medium (10.2 and 15.2 cm) and large (20.3 and 25.4 cm) mesh. The dominant species (and their mean lengths) that were caught in the small, medium and large mesh sizes, respectively, were whitespotted rabbitfish Siganus sutor (21.7 cm [SD 5.3]), mackerel tuna Euthynnus affinis (40.8 cm [SD 9.1]) and honeycomb stingray Himantura uarnak (87.3 cm [SD 37.4]). Values of length at first capture (L 50) for S. sutor and E. affinis caught with the small and medium mesh sizes were below length at maturity (L m). Catches of juveniles were proportionately high in the small meshes (61.3–74.2%) and lower in the medium (38.3–50.9%) and large (9.1–36.2%) mesh sizes. Catches with small mesh tended to be species categorised as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, in contrast to catches with large mesh which tended to be Near Threatened or Vulnerable species. Biomass CPUE differed between mesh-size groups, with the small sizes recording low CPUE. The medium sizes caught mid- to high-trophic-level species with high-income returns, displayed moderate CPUE, and had the lowest juvenile retention and capture of threatened species. Medium mesh sizes are therefore recommended for artisanal fisheries, given low trade-offs between ecological impact and fishery returns.

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