Frequent attacks by armed robbers, poor funding and lack of effective regulation of the fishing sector has resulted in limited number of Nigerian owned fishing trawlers operating in the country.
A former President of the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association, Mrs. Magaret Orakwusi, said this, noting that between 2012 and 2017, the number of indigenous companies operating fishing trawlers reduced from 30 to 10.
According to her, Nigerians account for only 20 per cent of the fish consumed in the country, leaving a wide gap of 80 per cent to be filled with importation and poaching.
Stakeholders in the maritime sector said that the situation was disturbing for a country with a huge population, water and land mass.
The President, Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, Taju Alao, said that if more Nigerians owned fishing trawlers, in 10 years, more than three million jobs would be created.
He noted that currently, there were just a little over 30 locally owned fishing trawlers in Nigerian waters.
This number, according to Orakwusi, was previously as high as 300.
“That is very poor for a country with such mass of water. About 200 meters beyond our nautical miles, foreigners are still found fishing and when they fish, they come back to sell the fish to us.
“We need to start telling them that there are conditions for fishing in our waters; we also need to let them know that poaching is not allowed.
“These foreigners can also be of benefit to the country if the government mandates them to allow our people to understudy them.”
The Coordinator, Nigerian Shipowners Association, Lagos Chapter, Captain Taiwo Akinpelumi, gave some of the factors working against the operational well-being of fishing companies in Nigeria as armed robbery attacks and government’s lack of enforcement of the regulations specifying the size of nets to use for fishing in nation’s waters.
He said, “When you look at it, you discover that most of the species around that side have been depleted because there is no regulatory body that is seeing to what they are doing; most trawler owners go to sea and catch both the matured fishes and the ones that are not matured with their nets and this is depleting the resources.
“Also, the facility required to get a bigger vessel that can go deep into the sea is not cheap. So, the issue of finance is also inhibiting fishing companies in this country.”
Akinpelumi said that government had to ensure proper regulation of the fishing industry.
He said, “A situation whereby foreign companies stray into our waters and fish must stop. Until we police our waters adequately, the government should come up with a robust regulatory framework that would safeguard our fishing areas. The foreigners’ incursion into our waters should also be checkmated.
“Trawler owners need government intervention because buying trawlers, especially the sophisticated ones used by the fishing industry is quite expensive. So, the government can consider providing intervention funds to augment whatever resources they have.
“Again, there is this factor government is overlooking in this country. When there is talk of training of manpower in the maritime industry, they usually refer to the training of seafarers. Nobody is looking at the fishermen. It is specialised and our fishermen ought to be properly trained. When this happens, they will carry out the vocation properly.”
A marine engineer, Emmanuel Ilori, blamed the limited number of fishing trawlers on the lack of interest on the part of Nigerians to operate fishing trawlers.
He said that foreigners were making money from fishing and there was no reason Nigerians should not be attracted to the trade.
He said Nigerians were not willing to invest in trawlers, stressing that it should not be government investing in them, but individuals in the country.
Ilori said, “Maybe they do not understand that there is money in the profession. Foreigners are making money from Nigerian waters, so why are Nigerians not engaging in this trade?
“In the area of illegal fishing, the government is doing everything to protect the nation from that. The present administration has started working on the security of our waterways and prevention of illegal fishing is part of that security.
“Illegal fishing is not allowed in the European and American waters. So, it is economic sabotage for those foreigners to be fishing in Nigerian waters illegally. If that is stamped out, there will be more opportunities for the local people. If they have a sound business case and they present it to the bank, the bank would support them. That should take care of the funding aspect.”
According to him, the banks are supporting Nigerians who are into shipping such as Mobo Shipping and they are doing well.
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