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Thursday, 7 July 2016

        As Nigeria struggles to ensure food security and bridge the fish deficit of over 1 million metric tons, illegal trawlers from foreign countries continue to harvest in the coastal areas, depriving the country of much needed fish supply, which results to revenue losses for indigenous businesses which should benefit from it. Nigeria’s per capita fish consumption of 11kg is generally considered low, as
against a global average of 21kg, yet there is not enough supply to meet national demand, making the country rely heavily on importation of fish. The Nigerian domestic fish market, estimated at $1.75 billion annually, is also suffering from illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, losing $1.3 billion annually in this way, along the coastal waters from Nigeria to Mauritania. Olajide Ayinla, National president of the Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FISON) blames the situation on poor policing of the country’s territorial waters, a situation which according to him, leads to 33 per- cent losses for Nigerian businesses that should be harvesting from the nation’s waters. “When it goes beyond our own shores and territorial waters, which is where the problem is. It means we need the cooperation of neighbouring countries, we ought to have an arrangement for better monitoring of our water bodies,” said Ayinla Mabel Yarhere, Director, National Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research, said in response to Business Day inquiries, that the major culprits of illegal fishing in Nigeria’s territorial waters are not only western vessels but also include neighboring states such as Ghana. “If you are coming within 200 nautical miles of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) you have to fly the Nigerian flag, and the naval police are always there to see what you are bringing in; that there is license to come into Nigeria. But, most times they are not policed. The navy does not have equipment to police these people,” said Yarhere. A report this week, by the Over- seas Development Institute (ODI) identified two Ghanaian vessels participating in the trawling activities recorded in West Africa, however, they were not specifically named among those who made illegal fishing stops in Nigerian waters.
       The major vessel that operated in Nigeria’s territorial waters was revealed through unique satellite tracking database by ODI as a certain Dutch operated reefer, which was flagged in the Netherlands, operating in several Western African EEZs including Nigeria. In total, 349 trips were recorded by 35 vessels from destinations including Angola, South Africa (Cape Town), Senegal, Nigeria, Mauritania, Morocco (Agadir), Western Sahara (Laayoune); and all but one (from Angola) involved containers. Total imports of western African fish carried by the containers amounted to 118,701 Metric Tons, according to ODI’s report. Satellite imaging records from 2013 showed that the particular “Dutch vessel” stayed in front of the port of Lagos, a major entry point for fish being imported into the country, for an entire day in August without calling into port. The vessel then sailed to the middle of the EEZ, stayed there and returned to Lagos, calling at port early on 16 August. It remained at port until 19 August when the vessel departed for the south-east edge of the EEZ, some 200 nautical miles from the coast, where it stayed until 22 August. These patterns are consistent with the movement of a reefer on the lookout for fishing vessels wishing to empty their holds.

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