News from the Fisheries and Blue Resource Sector for the First Quarter

On the 17th of January 2022, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo in a meeting with relevant stakeholders at the statehouse, inaugurated a committee on the blue economy. The objective of this is to ensure the sustainable use of the ocean’s resources for economic growth.

A few days later, the Resource and Environmental Policy Research Centre, Environment for Development (REPRC-EfD Nigeria) of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), and other stakeholders, including fishermen, fish farmers, researchers, and representatives from government agencies signed a communique requesting a review of the Nigerian Fisheries Act and a policy reform that will accommodate for the new changes in the sector.

Despite the fact that the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Mahmood Abubakar, pledged to show more support for the fisheries sector, stakeholders are strongly advocating for the establishment of a separate Federal Ministry dedicated to the Blue Economy, that will address sub-sectors of the ocean economy; fisheries, blue energy, marine tourism, seabed mining, and maritime trade.

In more related news on development in the sector, the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) has stated in a press release on February 18 that the Federal Government expected to generate the sum of N5 billion from the planned repair of a long-abandoned Federal Fishery Coastal Terminal, Ebughu Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. 

West Africa

The UN’s food agency has warned that the “overexploitation” of fish in West Africa by the growing global demand by the fishmeal and fish oil industry is having a “considerably negative impact” on food security, increasing the vulnerability of coastal communities.

Researchers in the region are directing the attention of the African government to fishery agreements negotiated between the EU and African states that are economically favourable to the former but result in the overexploitation of the fisheries in the latter.

According to one of the advisers to Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Chinese fleets have been taking profits from the fisheries for the last 30 years. This has caused a considerable adverse impact on the fish stocks between 2009 and 2021.

Tombo, a coastal city in Sierra Leone, which is a heavily-dependent fisheries community is facing a severe economic crisis as a result of this. People in Tombo are rising up in arms against Chinese fishermen who have usurped and seized their marine resources. 

Various efforts to manage the sector have been attempted by the government; including a month-long ban to allow fish stocks to replenish and the creation of an inshore exclusion zone, which have all had limited impact to promote sustainability due to funding and policing challenges.

Ghana’s failure to tackle illegal fishing has resulted in the issuance of a yellow card by the EU. This could lead to a seafood export ban to EU markets, and threaten local livelihoods and sustainable management of the country’s waters. The Republic of Ghana had already received a yellow card in November 2013, which was then lifted in October 2015, after Ghana addressed some of the shortcomings. Ghana is the first country ever to have been re-carded in this way.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) set up an additional one-month closed fishing season for all fishing fleets to help replenish the country’s over-exploited fish stock.

Recommendations from research have suggested that the only way to get around this and solve the issue is to engage local fishers to complement government efforts in combating IUU at the grassroots level.

Although IUU and related crimes at sea in West Africa go beyond basic inspection and patrolling, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, has reported an increase of 43.6% in the condition survey for vessel flag registration in the year 2021 against the year 2020. The agency also recorded an improvement in Port State Control (PSC) implementation in 2021.

These efforts should be commended as a top official of the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA) has confirmed the decline in piracy attacks, stating that fishing vessels recorded only two sea robbery attacks in 2021.

Report prepared by Eniitan Olorunyomi