Research has shown that about two decades ago, Nigeria was in possession of about 250 fishing vessels on the country’s waterways. However, illegitimate, unregulated and unreported practice has caused the country to have its vessel reduced to 150. At the different meetings, Expert in the fishing, maritime and agricultural sector often disclosed that the negative impact of illegitimate activities might be harmful to the rising Nigerian blue economy; although they present workable solution to the federal government.
President of the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NTOA), Mrs. Ben Okonkwo, stated that the country was losing about $100 million every year to the difficulties in the fishing sector. Even at that, unregulated fishing threatens food security and socio-economic stability in Nigeria and many part of the world. In her statement, she revealed that depletion of marine resources mostly affect developing countries that has huge dependence on fisheries to enable food security and export. This challenge has also caused reduction of the chances to provide sufficient measures to sustain the ecosystem and biodiversity of the marine environment.
There is a steady decline in Nigeria’s local catch.
According to the NTOA President, the expensive of automotive gas oil was also a disadvantage to the sector. The AGO covered over 70% of the sector operational cost. Aside this challenge, practitioners’ inability to hold their operational terminals is also a major challenge that confronts the sector. The Chairman of Zoe Maritime Resources Limited, Mrs. Oritsematosan Edodo-Emore, recently stated that the vast coastline and the exclusive economic zone of Nigeria possess substantial fish resources which would aid transformation of the country economy if properly utilized.
The Chairman believes that as a result of this unaddressed challenges industry, the local demand for fish surpassed the supply. She added that there was consistent demand for fish and fish products, which normally should help the local industry remain buoyant. She stated that records reviewed a steady decline in Nigeria’s local catch and production of fish. In 1983, domestic production of fish was predicted to be between 600,000 and 700,000 tons, but now local cash has dropped to 441,337, which is not good.
Sea Pirates is also the major challenge of the sector.
Just like the NTOA President, the chairman believes that illegitimate and unregulated fishing is responsible for this decline. These activities involve the use of trawlers from other jurisdictions to override the Nigerian coast of sizeable fish supplies and its juveniles. Mrs Edodo-Emore argued that Nigeria should tackle the challenge of this unregulated activity as it begins development of its blue economy. The Vice President of the fisheries of Nigeria, Dr. Olalekan Oguntade said that adequate up-to-date data is required on the practice for analysis of the extent of damage and the best way of approach.
Another major problem is the issue of sea pirates. The society complained of the current attack by gun-men who are likely sea pirates. The fishermen in riverine areas, after this attack have been terrified of going for a fishing expedition on the sea. According to the group, about 50 boat engines owned by members had been seized by these gunmen between December 2022 and April 2023. Some of the fishermen were also reported to have been kidnapped for ransoms which were eventually paid.
The Government should address the high cost of statutory registration.
To address the aforementioned challenges, the NTOA President, Mrs. Ben Okonkwo, suggested the need for the government to discuss with NTOA for organization of a chart harmonizing the steps and procedures for attraction of more domestic and foreign direct investment. The government should also address the expensive cost of statutory registration and renewals of the particulars of Trawlers from the regulatory agencies. Relevant research institutes are also urged to redirect their focus to stock assessment to avoid loss of more lives and property.