How Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated Fishing Activities Threaten Nigeria’s Emerging Blue Economy
…Stakeholders Push for Creation of Fishing Terminals
…Only 160 Fishing Trawlers Flagged in Nigeria
By DAPO OLAWUNI
Stakeholders in the fishing, maritime and agricultural sector on Thursday gathered in Lagos to highlight the negative effect of Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities affects the emerging blue economy of Nigeria, even as they proffer actionable solutions for the federal government.
Speaking at a Maritime Business Roundtable Breakfast Meeting on Fishing and Fisheries, organized by Zoe Maritime Resources Limited, in Lagos, on Thursday, President of Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA) Mrs Ben Okonkwo noted that IUU fishing poses a direct threat to food security and socioeconomic stability in Nigeria and other parts of the world.
According to her, developing countries that depend on fisheries for food security and export suffer from the depletion of marine resources.
IUU according to her, also reduces the chances of providing adequate measures for the sustenance of the ecosystem and the biodiversity of the marine environment.
Mrs Okonkwo urged the Federal Government do more to grow the fishing industry in Nigeria.
According to her, there is the need to establish Fisheries Terminal in Lagos where about 95% of the industrial fishing operators are based.
She urged the government to resucitate the Export Expansion Grant (EEG) Scheme to make it more robust workable and transparent.
According to her, NITOA has been involved in industrial fishing activities in Nigeria since 1986 when some notable Nigerians initiated the idea of having a unified body to represent its members on issues of mutual interest with a combined fleet of over 250 vessels and over twenty fishing companies which had drastically reduced to 150 vessels with about five presently struggling to survive.
She lamented that trawler operators are burdened with overzealous government agencies overseeing sea fishing which appeared detrimental to the growth of the Industry as a veritable source of local fish supply and foreign exchange earnings for the country.
She said “There is the need for the government to sit down with NITOA to chart a common course so as to harmonize the processes and procedures to attract mone local and foreign direct investment
“Other areas that government must look into include: High cost of statutory registration and renewals of Trawlers particulars from the regulatory agencies
“Occasional Pirate attacks at high sea leading tio loss of lives and property as well as damage of vessels and machines.
“Furthermore, the relevant Research institutes should redirect their focus towards stock assessment” she stated
Also speaking, Mrs Nneka Obiayor, Secretary General of Women in Maritime of West and Central Africa (WIMoWCA)
stated that only 160 fishing trawlers are registered and flagged in Nigeria.
Obiayor said “We have just 160 fishing trawlers flagged in Nigeria, this is a far cry from what we used to have several years ago. However, the collaboration that we have with department of fisheries at the Ministry of Agriculture, before you bring a fishing trawler for registration, you must obtain necessary documents from the ministry.
“We have also made it mandatory that any vessel with over 100GT must have IMO number, without this, you cannot fly the Nigerian flag
“Sadly, Nigeria does not have a fishing terminal, some.years back, we were getting it right, we had two in Akwa Ibom, few years ago, the government promised to resuscitate one in Akwa Ibom.
“But beyond the talk that we do all the time, it behoves on the trawler owners to push that such things should happen. If Ghana can have a fishing terminal, why won’t Nigeria?this is the only way we can grow our fishing and blue economy which has become the focus of the nation” she said
In her welcome remarks, the Chairman, Zoe Maritime Resources Limited, Mrs. Oritsematosan Edodo-Emore opined that Nigeria’s vast coastline and her Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has immeasurable fish resources which ordinarily should transform her economy if properly harnessed.
It is on record that with a population of about 140 million local demand for fish far outweighs the supply. This means that there is constant demand for fish and fish products which should keep the local fishing industry bouyant. The reality on ground tells a different story.”
“The records show that there has been a steady decline in local catch and production of fish in Nigeria. In the 1970’s domestic production of fish was said to range from 600,000 to 700,000 tons By 1983 this dropped to $38.00 tons in 2000, local catch was 441,337 and today the figure is no better. Responsibility for this decline has been laid at the feet of IUU fishing. This involves trawlers coming from other jurisdictions to sweep the Nigerian coast not only of sizeable fish supplies but also her juveniles,” she said.
Edodo-Emore argued that as Nigeria begins to develop her blue economy, the challenges of IUU fishing must be tackled headlong.
The Vice President of Fisheries Society of Nigeria, Dr. Olalekan Oguntade observed that there is a dire need for sufficient up-to-date data on IUU fishing to be able to analyze the extent of the menace and the best approach to address it.
“On IUU Fishing, there should be a NEEDS assessment of the industry. We equally need to protect the artisanal fishing industry which is where most riverine communities operate,” he said.
On his part, Mr. Akanbi Williams, from the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR), stressed that some of the statistics reeled out by several international organizations are fabricated as there were no reports from the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to substantiate the alleged high-degree of IUU fishing in the country.
Managing Director of YOA Insurance Brokers, Mrs. Enitan Solarin posited that some of the losses encountered by fishing operators could be covered by insurance.
Solarin, who was represented by Mrs. Bolanle Anjorin, harped on the need to increase insurance awareness in the nation’s fishing industry via collaboration between fisheries, regulators and insurance industry.