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FG grants licenses to 164 fishing trawlers to operate on territorial waters

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Abiola Seun

The Federal Government, Monday, disclosed that it has licensed 164 fishing vessels to operate on the nation’s territorial waters.

This was made known by the Director of Federal Department of Fisheries, Ime Umoh, while speaking with newsmen after declaring the ‘Second Dialogue With Regional Economic Communities (RECS) Implementation Of Fisheries Governance Project Phase 2 (FISHGOV-2) open in Abuja.

He further disclosed that despite importation of frozen fish into Nigeria, the deficit of 2.5 million metric tonnes cannot be closed with the current demand of 3.6 million metric tonnes per annum.

According to Umoh, Nigerian fish industry can only produce 1.2 million metric tonnes of fish from industrial, artisanal and aquaculture sub-sectors.

He added that Nigeria had benefited from Phase 1 of the FISHGOV project, and the success is glaring, as he expressed optimism that the Phase 2 will also boost fish production in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, he said the Ministry has licensed 164 fishing vessels that trawls the Nigerian territorial waters and exclusive economic zone.

The three-day dialogue is coming on the heels of reviewing progress of the Phase one of the FISHGOV and also to talk about the FISHGOV2 project, which is to develop work-plan for phase two that was kick-started in 2021.

The dialogue, follows the first one held in Naivasha, Kenya from 29th November to 1st December 2021.

However, due to COVID-19, much was not done in 2021, hence the dialogue where various stakeholders will speak on different issues and take stock to kick-start the work plan of phase two under the FISHGOV project.

The three-day dialogue was co-hosted by African Union Development Agency, AUDA-NEPAD, and African Union-InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources, AU-IBAR, with the support of European Union, EU.

He said: “Nigeria is a very large country, we need 3.6 million metric tonnes per annum but we only been able to produce from industrial, artisanal and aquaculture subsectors 1.2 million metric tonnes.

“The deficit is only being supplemented by frozen fish importation, so it is being used to bridge the gap, and not actually we are going to have 2.5 million metric tonnes brought into the country, and it is just to use the frozen fish importation to supplement until we have a leeway for the farmers to have something to eat.

“The deficit cannot be quantified monetarily but it is a toll on our foreign exchange but is being regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, because it is only the CBN Governor that issues Form A to only companies that want to bring in frozen fish into the country.”

He further stated that to safeguard the health of Nigerians, the Federal Department of Fisheries has drafted inspectors to ensure importers follow due process before selling the commodity to Nigerians.

“Frozen fish is good because before frozen fish is brought into the country, we have what we call task certificate; we have to certify where are they bringing this frozen fish, what is the health status, how is being stored, we inspect the cold-room.

“We have inspectors in Lagos, Abuja and others who go there to certify that the frozen fish being brought into the country is in very good condition.”

However, on boosting local production, he (Umoh) said local production in the three sectors.

“For the artisanal, we help them with training, provide inputs, which we do lake enhancement, which we take fingerlings to boost some water bodies that lack fish.

“For aquaculture, we normally establish fish farm estates, where we establish it for youths and women, and also provide them with feed because of the flood we had in 2020 in collaboration with National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA.

“We are intervening in 15 states providing fish feeds, fingerlings, nets, canoe, and that is what is going on presently in Nigeria.

“On industrial, we install Vessel Monitoring System, VMS, not to finish everything of the artisanal.

“What we do is in collaboration with Navy and other security agencies when we install the equipment in the vessels so that we will be able to monitor what they are doing; the type of fish, vessels that is being used, equipment that is being brought into the country.

“For example, they can use the vessels for smuggling and every other activity. We have to prevent all these from the trawlers being used for other obnoxious activities.”

However, the Senior Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, CAADP, Advisor, African Union Commission, AUC, Panduleni Elago, promised that CAADP will support particularly artisanal fish farmers and small scale fish farmers to bridge the existing 2.5 million metric tonnes of fish demand in Nigeria.

“Fish is one of the healthiest and cheapest proteins to human being, and as we strive to end hunger in Africa by 2025, we also seek to support all those involvement in the fisheries sector; small scale farmers, the non-state actors.

” Civil Societies look at us to see how we are supporting the households ensuring they have food on their plates, and not only but nutritious which will be coming simply from fish protein.

“It is actually a very far fetched currently in terms of the gap, and what does that tell? It means we need to ensure and support particularly the artisanal fish farmers, the small scale fish farmers so that they will be able to produce for not only their households but also for their neighbours”, Elago said.

© 2022, maritimemag. All rights reserved.

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