By Chris Uba
Stakeholders of the Nigerian fishery sub-sector have appealed to the federal government to intervene to rescue the industry from years of neglects.
Nigeria owns significant fisheries with a coastline of 853km and over 14 million hectares of inland waters, but currently, the total fish consumption in Nigeria is about 3.4 million metric tonnes (mmt), out of which about 1.1mmt is produced locally, leaving a gap of an estimated at 2.4mmt.
Just 30 per cent of this demand is met domestically, resulting in an annual expenditure of N125 billion (US$625m) on fish imports, while per capita fish consumption is 11kg and significantly lower than the global average of 21kg and just less than the estimate of 13.5kg for Côte d’Ivoire.
Lamenting the situation of the sub-sector, the stakeholders, who spoke in Lagos, at the National Fisheries Stakeholders Forum, a one-day event organised by the Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FISON), said the poor situation of the industry had resulted to its low contribution of only four per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
They noted that the sector could do more if the necessary environment was created.
The stakeholders who spoke on the general theme: “Harnessing the Potential of Non-Stake Actors in Fisheries and Aquaculture Development in West Africa,” touched all aspects of the industry and pointed out the need for urgent attention by government.
A member of FISON, Prof. Adebisi Balogun, who is a former Vice Chancellor of Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), said the fishery industry has a lot of potential for economic development in the country if efforts are made to properly harness the sector.
He said the sub-sector has the potential to employ a large number of Nigerians, meaning that it can be used for job creation if the government harnesses all the opportunities in the sector.
President of FISON, Dr. Lukeman Agbabiaka, told THISDAY that fish makes up around 40 per cent of Nigeria protein intake while about 1,477,651 people work as fishermen, hence, the society was making efforts to appropriately inform the federal government on the need to see and appreciate the potential of the sector.
“We are appealing to the federal government to create a conducive environment to encourage people to go into the sector just as on our part, we are working to properly position the sector for optimal performance,” he added.
According to Agbabiaka, if more people are encouraged to go into fish farming and aquaculture business, Nigeria would be able to meet the fish demand and save the country several billions of naira spent on fish importation annually.
He said the cost of fund has made fish farming business uncompetitive, giving advantage to the Chinese, Indians and Arabs, who borrow money at low interest rate to dominate Nigeria’s fishery business.
FISON is working to ensure quality control and certification for the industry operatives to enable to begin to export to other parts of the world.
The Minister of State of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, who was represented by Mrs. Lydia Oladosu, an Assistant Director in the Department of Fisheries, said Nigeria imported over two million metric tonnes of fish before 2015, adding that fish production had doubled by 600,000 MT in the last three years, after government restricted food importation by directing fish importers to embrace backward Integration through commercial aquaculture.