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‘2.5 million-tonne fish demand gap to widen without development plans’

By Femi Ibirogba, Head, Agro-Economy
27 June 2022   |   3:41 am
Aquaculture and fisheries management specialists have called on the government at all levels to emplace and implement the Food and Agricultural Organisation’s (FAO) Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisherie..

• Fish farmers call on FG to facilitate export of smoked fish

Aquaculture and fisheries management specialists have called on the government at all levels to emplace and implement the Food and Agricultural Organisation’s (FAO) Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines).

The guidelines will also boost fish productivity and will help to close the 2.5 million metric tonnes supply deficit. These were disclosed during a three-day hybrid national stakeholders’ advocacy and capacity building workshop on the implementation of the SS guidelines in Nigeria, held from 9th to 11th, May 2022, at Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, Lagos.

The workshop was organised by LASU, in collaboration with the FAO, International Collective in Support of Fish Workers (ICSF) and World-Fish.

The workshop pointed out the relevance of small-scale fisheries within the quest for attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and emphasised the need to apply a human rights approach in the sustainable management of the small-scale fisheries.

The session exposed the participants to experiences from other countries (Tanzania and Sri Lanka) already implementing the SSF Guidelines. The technical sessions were achieved by splitting about 30 selected participants from different stakeholder groups into two working groups with the objectives of evaluating the level of awareness among stakeholders, identifying inherent challenges to the implementation of the SSF Guideline in Nigeria and formulating an action plan towards the SSF Guidelines implementation, among others.

The workshop also focused on capacity development aimed at ensuring that the stakeholders up their activities, get informed and develop requisite skills to embrace activities taking place at the continental level, especially with Pan-African Platform of non-state actors (NSAs) in Fisheries and Aquaculture (AFRIFISH).

Stakeholders observed some challenges limiting small-scale fisheries (SSF) and the implementation of the SSF Guidelines in Nigeria, such declining catches, inconsistent policies and poor policy implementation.

In spite of Nigeria being a signatory to the SDGs, small-scale fisheries have not been developed as an integral part for attaining the SDGs.

Also, the traditional fisheries authorities, though recognized as de facto managers with some reciprocity, in the real sense, little jurisdiction or institutional integration exists between the traditional fishers and the state.

Fishing indigenous communities are to be protected under human rights laws and their right to fishing as a livelihood is regarded as their inalienable rights, often in many contexts, their rights are violated.

They also noted that the current fisheries governance system does not adequately take into account small-scale fisheries and promote participatory approach to small-scale fisheries governance.

And lack of finance to enhance small-scale fishers’ investment in relevant and state-of-the-art vessels and gears that will enhance their fishing activities and lack of enabling law that can adequately protects the rights of small-scale fisheries are some other major obstacles.

Expected benefits of implementing SSF guidelines, stakeholders said, include increased employment opportunities along the small-scale fisheries value chain, thus facilitating the attainments of SDG 1 (No Poverty); increase in domestic fish production, thereby increasing protein intake, reducing malnutrition and increasing fish food security, and in turn, facilitating SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and improved standard of living of fishers and well-being of fishing communities, thus facilitating SDG 3 (Healthy lives).

The stakeholders recommended that the government, in collaboration with industry players, should implement the SSF Guidelines to drive policies in small-scale fishery industry as its activities impact and are impacted by different actions across different ministries and agencies.

They also sought the support of international organisations, including FAO, African Union – Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), WorldFish and other development agencies committed to the implementation of the SSF Guidelines.

The government, they urged, should set up a multi-stakeholder committee and review and strengthen policies, laws and regulations, improve fisheries data collection in line with the spirit of the SSF guidelines.

Small-scale fishers and fish workers should be empowered and encouraged to promote national and local-level implementation of the SSF guidelines.

They also asked the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (OSSAP-SDGs) to support policy development and implementation of the SSF in Nigeria towards attaining the sustainable development goals.

The communique was endorsed by Professor Akintola, Shehu Latunji (convener), Dean, Faculty of Science, Lagos State University and Chairman, Communique Committee, Department of Fisheries, Faculty of Science, Lagos State University Dr. Saba, Abdulwakil Olawale.

Meanwhile, Director, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Mr. Umoh Imeh said the final report of the Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) Guideline was negotiated by FAO members and endorsed by Committee of Fisheries in 2014, confirming a strong commitment from both government and civil society to bring about positive changes in small scale fisheries.

Imeh added that to achieve self-sufficiency in food production, reduce hunger, malnutrition, poverty and unemployment, especially in the fisheries sub-sector, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture had developed some measures to support and improve small-scale fisheries.

Such policy measures include stock assessment and restocking of some selected water bodies across the country with indigenous culturable juvenile fish species. The essence of the stock assessment is to increase fisher folk catches, restore ecosystem and create public awareness on the need to avoid over exploitation of fisheries resources in an unsustainable manner.

He also listed post-harvest management through the establishment of preservation facilities and distribution of smoking kilns for processing and value addition in coastal and inland states with high fishing activities as part of the measures.

Included also is inputs distribution to fisher folks with fishing gears and crafts, this include fishing nets, canoes, floaters, sinkers, twine ropes and threads.

The small-scale fisheries sub-sector is the major source of fish production in the country, accounting for 70 – 80 per cent of the total domestic production. The sector is an important component of some national economies, contributing significantly in the fight against hunger, malnutrition, poverty and unemployment.

He called for development of guidelines and policies that would create favourable climates for sustainable development of the sector and at the same time safeguard against unemployment and social risk.

He disclosed that the current yearly domestic fish demand of the country is 3.6 million metric tonnes, while the total yearly domestic production from all sources leaves a demand-supply gap of about 2.5 million metric tonnes. This gap made Nigeria the largest importer of frozen fish in Africa and destination for investment.

The objectives of the SSF Guidelines enhancing the contribution of SSF to global food security and nutrition to support the progressive realisation of the right to adequate food; contributing to the equitable development of SSF community and poverty eradication; achieving sustainable utilisation, prudent and responsible management and conservation of fisheries resources; promoting the contribution of SSF to an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for the planet and its people, and providing guidance that could be considered by states and stakeholders for the development and implementation of ecosystem and participatory policies, strategies and legal frameworks for the enhancing of responsible and sustainable SSF.

Others include enhancing public awareness and promoting the advancement of knowledge on the culture, role, contribution and traditional knowledge and its related constraints and opportunities.

Guiding principles includes human rights and dignity, respect of cultures, non-discrimination, gender equality and equity, equity and equality, consultation and participation, rule of law, transparency, accountability, economic social and environmental sustainability, holistic and integrated approaches, social responsibility, feasibility and social and economic viability.’

MEANWHILE, the Catfish and Allied Fish Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFFAN) has called on the Fisheries Department of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to facilitate the process of exporting smoked catfish to the United States of America and European countries.

A former National President of the Catfish and Allied Fish Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFFAN), Mr Rotimi Oloye, said the USA had banned Nigerian smoked fish from February 18, 2018 following the failure of the department to respond to several letters written by the US Department of Agriculture to regularise export to the US.

“Between November 2017 and February 18, 2018, US Department of Agriculture wrote six letters to the Federal Department of Fisheries, Nigeria, calling their attention to inflows of substandard products to their country and improper documentation of the imported fish.

“They wanted to know details of the production of the fish. So, they got no response to the six letters to the Federal Government. That was why the door was shut against us.”

He alleged that Ghanaians now source smoked fish from Nigeria and export same to the US and Europe while Nigerian farmers are unable to export.

He lamented that other countries involved, including Ghana, re-certified following their quick responses to the letter by the US Department of Agriculture.

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