- Experts lament absence of data on IUU fishing
The menace of IUU fishing in Nigeria has led to the depletion of fishing trawlers in the country by more than 100 industrial fishing vessels in the last two decades.
With about 150 vessels currently operating in the country according to the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA), this current figures represent a drastic decrease from the over 250 fishing vessels in operations in 1983.
The President of NITOA, Mrs. Benedette Okonkwo revealed these statistics while speaking at a Maritime Business Roundtable Breakfast Meeting on Fishing and Fisheries, organized by Zoe Maritime Resources Limited, in Lagos, today.
According to Okonkwo, illegal fishing activities in the country also threatens Nigeria’s blue economy prospects even as she urged the government must do more to grow the fishing industry in Nigeria.
Her words: “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.”
“There is the need to establish Fisheries Terminal here in Lagos where about 95% of the industrial fishing operators are based. Furthermore government should do well to resucitate the Export Expansion Grant (EEG) Scheme to make it more robust workable and transparent”
She also lamented that trawler owners are overburdened by overzealous government agencies overseeing sea fishing, adding that it is detrimental to the growth of an industry that should be a veritable source of local fish supply and foreign exchange earnings for the nation.
“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 more 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 to loss of lives and property as well as damage of vessels and machines,” she said.
Also speaking, 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.
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.
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.
When quizzed by News Diet on the recent report by Fishy Networks, an international group of 11 non governmental organizations, which stated that over 40% of global IUU fishing takes place in West Africa, Williams alluded to the fact that the menace of IUU fishing is prevalent in the country and sub-region; but he maintained that it wasn’t to the frightening high degree reported.
Speaking from the prism of insurance, the 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.