Artisanal fishing communities in Lagos State are faced with one challenge or another with most of it bothering on illegal fishing activities in Lagos waters and use of poisonous nets for fishing. A recent visit to Zone 2 Community in Lekki, an artisanal fishing enclave reveals the many challenges facing fishermen and women in most fishing communities in Lagos State, Nigeria.
By Ruth Akinwunmi-King
Some members of the artisanal fishing community lamented the loss of jobs as result of Illegal fishing of fingerlings by fishermen from the neighboring Benin Republic.
“Government should save us from the illegal fishing activities of fishermen from Cotonou, Benin Republic, who invade our waters in two piece of boats and poisonous nets, to fish away our fingerlings. The peak period for their illegal fishing activity is between May and July; this leaves us without enough fishes and this has been ongoing for some years now, and we do not have the kind of equipment’s they have, ” said Sunday Ekunjumi, a fishmonger at Zone 2 Lekki, Lagos. “We have our challenges with lack of good fishing boats and equipment as you can see that most of our boats are faulty; even at that our women still struggle to have good ways of preserving our fishes through smoking even though smokes affects our eyes while we roast the fishes and the environment is not conducive.”
Another fisherman, Segun Ezekiel, who said he has lived in the community for more than eighteen years said that aside living in constant anxiety about the depleting fish stocks because of illegal fishing perpetrated by foreign fishermen from Benin Republic, he noted that they are being threatened to evacuate the community.
“It is sad we are being threatened to leave this community even though we contribute to the revenue of the state. This is where we make our livelihood, everyone cannot live in big houses and towns, some of us are born to survive close to the sea,” Said Ezekiel.
“Government should allow us manage the community, we pay taxes as we are just fishermen who also voted for the present administration, we need them to help us in this area we catch good fishes here.”
Our correspondent observed women were seen roasting different varieties of fishes such as Seke fish, Tilapia and Sawa in a manner that exposes them to inhaling smokes, which is not healthy. In addition, many bad fishing boats adorn the landscape of the community, which is claimed to accommodate more than one hundred fishermen and women, who now idle away hoping for a good season of fishing that may never come.
On the other hand, some member of these artisanal fishing communities have also called on the Lagos Inland Waterways to ensure proper monitoring of fishing activities in Lagos Waters to stop Illegal, Unregulated and Underreported fishing activities in and around the country, as this will go a long way to help the fishermen to survive better and improve the sector
An Economist, Mr. Joe Femi-Dagunro noted that the government need to also stop importation of fishes as the country has what it takes to feed the nation from the Nigeria waters. “The government can provide better infrastructure for fishermen and women such as loans and grants for these set of people, who contribute majority to the country’s economy,” Joe said
“This will help them do what they know how to do best in catching the fishes, roasting, nurturing and all other process they carry out in the fishing industry. These artisans are naturally blessed especially the Ilaje and Eguns, aside from some of our waters that are being polluted government can get the best from this sector”. He explained
We can also export our own fishes to other countries of the world, once the governments invest massively into the local fishing sector in Nigeria the economy will improve as this will reduce our loss, we need to be very creative.
Earlier in the year, the House of Representatives (lower chamber) expressed concern over the indiscriminate manner with which frozen fish of questionable quality are brought into this in country for consumption. The decision followed the adoption of a motion calling for a phased ban on the importation of fish and fish products into Nigeria sponsored by Mr. Tasir Olawale Raji, wherein he noted that the diversification of the economy away from crude oil through key sectors such as agriculture remains pivotal economic Recovery and Growth Plan of the present administration.
The House, however, mandated its committees on Agricultural Production and Services and Water Resources to collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Agricultural, and other stakeholders to develop a policy framework for the implementation of a phased ban on importation of fish and fish products. The essence, according to the House, is to create an enabling environment for increased private sector investments in the fisheries sub-sector such that Nigeria can become self-sufficient in fish production within a period of four years.
Illegal Unreported Unregulated fishing is a prominent feature of fishing in many African countries and Nigeria is not an exception. Several artisanal fishing communities in Lagos State have been faced with both IUUs and ejections by the state government. It is advisable that the state government apply aggressive measures to stem the activities of Illegal fishermen coming from neighboring countries such as Benin Republic to fish in Nigerian waters.