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Special report on fisheries and aquaculture in Nigeria

By Editor
24 April 2016   |   2:39 am
The Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA) has been involved in industrial fishing activities in Nigeria with a combined fleet of about 130 vessels down from an earlier figure of about 250.
Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture.

Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture.

The Fisheries and Aquaculture Value Chain of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) is aimed at creating an enabling environment for increased and sustainable development of over one million metric tons of farmed table fish for local consumption and possibly, export.
Undoubtedly, fish farming is one of the fastest growing agricultural enterprises in Nigeria and by its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product, which is considered huge, fishing has significant impact on the nation’s economy in terms of employment generation, poverty alleviation, foreign exchange earnings and provision of raw materials for the animal feeds industry.

However, the fishing industry is beset with a combination of worsening piracy attacks, poor economic condition and other fundamental challenges which include high cost of operation, high pump price of Automotive Gas Oil (diesel), and lack of direct investment.
As a sector that provides the basis for the livelihoods and nutrition of millions of Nigerians, keen industry watchers believe that government at all levels should make concerted effort in order to give the needed push in the fishing sector for desirable result.
In this report, The Guardian examines the prevalent challenges of increasing cases of sea robberies and how to tackle this menace, as well as, means to improve on local catch, reduce imports and contribute significantly to the growth of the nation’s economy.

Government must do more to grow the fishing industry in Nigeria – Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA)

The Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA) has been involved in industrial fishing activities in Nigeria with a combined fleet of about 130 vessels down from an earlier figure of about 250 due to sea robbery, high cost of AGO and insecure berthing facility. The association employs about 9000 Nigerians directly. According to Akinsola Amire, the President of the association, “NITOA has been a major provider of jobs for the teeming population, thus assisting Government in reducing unemployment and social unrest. Many of our members are venturing into fish and shrimp culture, as a way to further boost local fish supply and increased foreign exchange earnings for the country.”

When asked about the prospect of fish farming as one of the fastest growing agricultural enterprises in the country, and the contribution of the sector to the economy, Amire expressed the same optimism, but believed it could be better.

He submitted that a more rigorous policing of the maritime waters, particularly by the Nigerian Navy, is necessary to curb incessant pirate attacks and other menaces. In his words, “the Nigerian Navy has been doing reasonably well in recent times and no one expects such an institution to operate outside the economy. Nevertheless, government has the mandate to provide enabling environment for business to thrive, which means it has to do more to guarantee safety of lives and investment of all legal operators at sea.”

In his submission, the NITOA president implored government to create a landing base in Lagos, where 95% of the industrial fishing operators are based through the establishment of the Lagos Fisheries Terminal. In addition, there is the need to resuscitate the Export Expansion Grant (EEG) Scheme to make it more robust, workable and transparent.

He frowned at overzealousness of many agencies of government overseeing sea fishing, which he believed are anathema to the growth of the industry. As a veritable source of local fish supply and foreign exchange earnings for the country, there is need for government to sit down with NITOA to chart a common course to harmonize the processes and procedures, so as to attract more local and foreign direct investment.
Other areas that government must look into include continuous supply of Automotive Gas Oil (Diesel Oil), which is about 80% of the raw material required for running industrial fleet; establishment of fish farm estates and processing centres across the country; and encourage multi species fish culture rather than relying mostly on Catfish. The relevant Research Institutes must do meaningful laboratory to land researches that will add value to the quality of cultural species”, he added.

Expansion of industrial fishing from inshore to offshore waters will increase Aquaculture production – Dr. Gbola Akande, Executive Director/CEO, Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research

The Fisheries Resources Department of the Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research has been in the forefront of the development of the fishing industry in Nigeria. In executing her statutory function, the Institute through her Fisheries Resources Department has contributed immensely to the development of fisheries both in the short and long term. The Nigerian coastal and marine areas comprising of 853 km coastline, continental shelf surface area of 37,934 km² and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covering 210,900 km² are the areas of jurisdiction of the Institute, within which she exercises her mandate. These areas are very rich with abundant fin and shellfish resources.

The rational exploitation of these resources is predestined on data and information gathered through research essential for management and conservation. To this end, exploratory research surveys aimed at identifying the various fish resources and areas of occurrence including their distribution were carried out. Of great importance is research survey on assessment of these resources as this is required for determination of the availability of such resource in commercial quantity for exploitation. Specific activities traceable to the genesis of commercial industrial fisheries in Nigeria are given below.

Shrimp resources survey

Exploratory comprehensive survey in the shrimp resources of Nigeria brought the profitability of shrimping to light that triggered off the establishment of industrial commercial fisheries in Nigeria. The abundance of shrimp was never in doubt since its distribution is linked to the existence of lagoons or estuaries and sediments of mud, sand and high organic matter. These conditions are typical of Nigerian coastline, in particular in the Niger Delta area, where the highest shrimp catches were taken in shallow areas (20 – 25m). The stocks off Nigeria are penaeid shrimps, commonly known as pink shrimps. They exhibit peculiar migratory habits; adults spawn in the ocean with the young larvae moving into estuaries, creeks and lagoons to grow to juveniles in 6 to 8 months. These surveys were the genesis of commercial fishing in Nigeria, as it revealed that the species abundance was of commercial quantity and areas of distribution.

Survey of Tuna and Tuna-like fishes in the Nigerian EEZ

Tuna are large fast swimming oceanic fishes of the mackerel family with long range migratory habits. Their flesh is a world-acclaimed delicacy. These fishes have always lived in our offshore waters; however, their abundance was not known. The Institute’s 12-month Tuna survey in Nigeria’s EEZ in 1982/83 confirmed that stocks of Tuna and Tuna-like fishes could support commercial exploitation with an estimated potential yield of 10,000 tons per annum. NIOMR pioneered Pole and line Tuna operations in Nigeria. The two major commercial species in Nigeria waters are the Skipjack Katsuwonus pelanis and yellow fin Thunnus albacares. They could sustain remunerative fishing in our waters; in fact even earn the country some foreign exchange through exports.

Exploratory deep sea fishing

NIOMR’s newly acquired research vessel (RV) Bayagbona carried out series of survey of the deeper waters 100 – 600 meters to relieve the pressure on the inshore coastal resources yielded important results. Drift fishes Ariomma bondi and Ariomma melanum were found present in commercial quantities at 100 – 300m with an estimated annual potential yield of 21,000tonnes. This fish is a very good substitute for imported canned sardines. Fish feed constitutes an average of 70 – 75% of the total inputs into aquaculture production. The protein and amino acid profile of fishmeal produced from lantern fish is good and experiment is currently going on the feeding trials using local ingredients and lantern



fish meal to compound fish feed.

Turtle Excluder Device (TED) and By-catch Reduction Device (BRD)

The Institute developed the Turtle Excluder Device (TED) and the By-Catch Reduction Device (BRD) in response to the need that arose in the Fisheries Sector. Nigeria exports shrimps worth about $70 – $80 million annually to the USA and Europe. Demersal shrimp trawling invariably and inadvertently capture the endangered sea turtles as incidental catch and is regarded as a priority issue in the global efforts to develop more responsible fisheries. TED is a conservation strategy to exclude the endangered sea turtle from being captured while the shrimps enter the codend of the trawl net.

In 1996, TED became a prerequisite and a regulatory requirement for all nations, which export shrimp to the United States. This is in accordance with the Turtle Conservation Regulations of Fisheries Act of Nigeria (decree) No. 71 of 1992 and later the Sea Fisheries Regulation No. 1 of 2006. The Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research in collaboration with the Federal Department of Fisheries developed the locally made TED with supper shooter or bent rod or weedless grid for adoption by the Industrial fishery. The design characteristics, specifications and procedures for the construction and installation of TED were up to the standards stipulated by USA. Consequently, Nigeria was certified in 1998 among other 16 nations, to export all categories of shrimps species to USA.

“The government must create enabling environment for investment in fishing” says Dr. Olajide Ayinla, Ffs, President, Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FISON)

The Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FISON) was founded in 1976 with the bid to promote the development of the fisheries profession and related disciplines in Nigeria, Africa and internationally. Today, the membership of the society has expanded cutting across all the related disciplines including fisheries scientists, fishing companies and professional industrial fishing/fish farming enthusiasts and entrepreneurs.
According to Dr. Olajide Ayinla , the President, Fisheries Society of Nigeria(FISON) “the Fish Industry in Nigeria is able to produce just one third of fishing requirements in Nigeria. That shows the reason why we are importing fish to augment the wide gap. Meanwhile, there are lots of lopsidedness in the way the importation is being handled by the Federal Department of Fisheries, an agency of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.”

He pointed out that the government needs to stamp out corruption in the issuance of import license for fish, and discourage situation whereby people, who have no business in the industry are given allocation and at the end, such are sold to bigger importers. This practice must stop because the end cost from reselling these allocations are transferred to the consumers at a high price.

Another major issue is that fish is not in the list of banned imported items. Fish products (even those that are produced locally) enter the country through different sources, particular through the country’s notoriously porous boarders.

Ayinla explained that “the contribution of the sector to the economy is encouraging. However, government needs to create a more conducive environment for investment. A lot still needs to be done to streamline the process of private public-partnership. For example, there are many government facilities that are not in use presently, but could be easily put into use by the private sector. We expect the government to partner with investors in this regard for purpose of production and bridge the wide gap in fish farming.”

In addition, we need to look into the problem of marketing especially the challenges posed by importation of fish into the country at a cheaper rate to the detriment of local fish farmers. There is a need for regulation and the society looks up to Federal Department of Fisheries to partner with our association in order to draw up policies that will be of benefit to all stakeholders in the sector”, he noted.
The FISON president disclosed that “the society has proposed a blueprint to make fisheries a business rather than a hobby. That is, looking at it in terms of value chain, which has to do with the input and production in fish farming to make it more profitable. This would guarantee food sufficiency for the country, as well as, equal employment generation.”

He pointed out that the society has launched itself into consultancy services as a means of increasing revenue drive for the association and discourage quackery, which in the time past has driven away valuable investors.”

Concerning the myriads of challenges besetting the sector, Ayinla said “the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA) has been hugely affected. Therefore, the issue of continuous pirates attacks must be addressed properly by the government. On this note, the Nigeria Custom, Nigeria Navy and the Police must be involved to take control and instill confidence in investors. Government needs to strengthen our monitoring control and surveillance strategy. We should also work closely with other neighbouring countries.”

In conclusion, he advised government to “do things differently in order to make the industry grow, open market opportunities for private sector, regulate the products and create standards in fish production. There is need for designated fish markets, at the local government level, in partnership with the private sector.”