Kenya fishery Lamu

Kenya troll yellowfin tuna

Indian Ocean
Yellowfin Tuna

Location & History

Located on the east coast of Africa, this fishery targets mostly yellowfin tuna and generally harvests larger fish in the northern section of the Kenyan coastline. Off the coast of Kenya, running nearly all the way down the edge of the country is a coral reef system. The reef, and all the wildlife that it supports, provides a perfect habitat for tuna species to thrive. 


How is the Tuna Caught?

Most small-scale fishers targeting tuna in Kenya operate from small fibreglass vessels while using one-by-one troll fishing techniques. These methods typically catch fast growing, surface level fish species, such as yellowfin and skipjack tuna. Unlike larger-scale troll fishing that uses artificial lures on barbless hooks at the back of the boat, this much smaller-scale fishery uses barbed lines. This assists them in catching particularly tricky fish and helps to prevent fish from escaping: more important at the smaller catch volumes seen in this fishery. These lines are pulled at a slow speed through the water from varying lengths of line that are attached to rod and reel gear, rather than the back of the boat as seen in larger scale trolling. The disturbance of the surface waters caused by the dragging, resembles the movements that small fish make and attracts the tuna to the lure. When a tuna is caught, the fisher hauls in the line and removes the tuna, returning that same hook and line to the water.

The high selectivity of these fishing gears mean that professionalised local tuna fishers catch mostly yellowfin tuna while not impacting non-target species (also known as bycatch) such as dolphins, turtles or sharks.


Unique Features

Kenya is still developing its small-scale tuna fisheries and, although they are only exporting small amounts of their catch, the fish they harvest provides important local employment opportunities when sold to local markets while also representing a primary source of protein for local communities.

Typical Vessel

Item Value
Crew Size 4
Size Range(m) 6-8
Details of Type of Engine

Outboard, 15-40 horsepower

Hold Capacity <1 tonne
Onboard Cold Storage? Yes

Target Species

Yellowfin Tuna

Yellowfin tuna are located around the world in warm tropical and subtropical waters, close to the surface of the ocean. The meat from the fish is pale pink in colour and mild tasting due to the lower fat stores in their body as a result of their location in warmer seas.
Pacific Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
Indian Ocean
Thunnus albacares
Find out more about Yellowfin Tuna

Fishing Gear


Troll fishing uses single hooked lines that are dragged through the water off the back of a moving boat. The disturbance caused by the rapid movements of the lures and hooks resembles that of small, schooling fish and attracts tuna to the boat. Once a tuna bites on the hooks the line is brought in, the tuna is quickly detached and placed on ice, and the lure is returned to the water.
Find out more about Trolling

Regional Fisheries Management Organisation

Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)

Regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) are international bodies formed to manage fish stocks in an oceanic area. They include several countries with fisheries operating in that area, and some focus on particular species such as tunas. They are established through international agreements and treaties. RFMOs typically collect fishery statistics, assess fish stock conditions, monitor fishery activity and make fishery management decisions.

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) is the RFMO responsible for managing tuna and tuna-like species (including billfishes and some sharks) in the Indian Ocean. Their main objective is to manage fish stocks, by ensuring fisheries operate sustainably, so benefits from relevant fisheries in the region can be maintained into the future.