Fishermen in many localities across Ebonyi state, South-Eastern Nigeria are finding it difficult to sustain the traditional method of fishing in the face of declining fish resources in the rivers. This has resulted in the rising case of chemical fishing in the state. By Olisemeka Sony
Desperate fishing time
Investigation by SIPA News reporter in the state indicates that local fishermen hardly catch enough fish to meet market demand. For instance, Mr. Nworie Christian, who usually plies his hook-and-net traps along Ebonyi River at Onuebonyi in Izzi local government area of the state, disclosed that fishermen in the locality had resorted to scouting and browsing through many portions of the river in desperate search for elusive fish. “Most often you will spend many hours going through the Ebonyi River to search for spots where you expect you will catch fish. What we do is to look for areas where there is much water. At such places, you stand better chances of getting fishes,”he said.
Another fisherman, Paul Njoku, who operates at Akpoha River in Afikpo north local government area of the state also lamented about the depletion of fishery resources. “We do not catch fishes in such large quantity anymore. If you are lucky, you can catch one or two cat fishes; although other people can be luckier to catch more fishes than others,”Njoku stated.
Chemical fishing to the rescue
The depleting fishery resources has made chemical fishing an alternative among fishermen in Ebonyi state. According to SIPA News investigation, the use of Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), carbide, dynamite and light for fishing have become attractive to fishermen as a means to meet market demands.
DDT is a colourless, tasteless, and almost odourless crystalline organochlorine, used as an insecticide and pesticide to fight human illnesses and agricultural pests until 1970’s, when it was proven toxic and dangerous. The light fishing traps, on the other hand, were designed in a way that once the light was switched on and put into the sea, it trapped all kinds of species in the fishing net, regardless of the size of the fish. In Nigeria, these chemicals are banned but the inability of officials to enforce the bans means that it is still being used in fishing in some localities and Ebonyi State is one of such places.
Besides the fact that these chemicals have adverse impact on aquatic lives, they also pose danger to human health. For instance, SIPA News reporter found that fishes caught with chemicals are brought to the shore dead and discoloured, with broken flesh and sunken eyes, indications that they are not fresh. Chief John Udeh, a prominent local fisherman in Aboine river confirmed the use of chemicals in fish hunting in the area but blamed its rampant use on failure of government to enforce its ban. “People have gone back to using banned chemical materials and methods due to the government’s failure to monitor the coastal areas and ensure strict compliance. If people who use such methods to fish are caught and given necessary punishment, I am sure that many people would shy away from using them,”he explained.
For his part, James Nnadi, an Abakaliki based farmer expressed concern that the use of chemical in fishing is becoming rampant in Ebonyi State. “The use of chemicals in fishing in Ebonyi state is becoming worrisome because it is becoming rampant and needs to be stopped for it’s an ill-wind that blows nobody any good. We are tired of shouting about it because those in authority have failed to perform their responsibility, leaving us to suffer,”he says.
Mrs. Elsie Ikemefune, a fish consumer also shares her deep worry over the rising cases of chemical fishing. “As a fresh fish enthusiast, I am deeply worried about the continued use of chemical in fishing in many parts of Nigeria, especially Ebonyi state where I buy fish”.Mrs. Ikemefune urged federal and state governments in Nigeria to set up testing machine at all the shores of the country to test the use of chemicals on fishes being sold in the market.