Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Nigerian Navy wednesday apprehended 26 persons, including an Indian national and three Ghanaian citizens for allegedly breaching Nigerian laws and carrying out industrial fishing activities within restricted areas.
The Central Naval Command in Yenagoa said its men impounded two fishing trawlers, ORC 5 and CYNTHIA, belonging to a Nigerian company, ORC Fishing and Food Processing Limited, along with all its crew members because they breached the legal distance of five nautical miles off the Nigerian coastline.
Handing over the vessels, and their contents with all crew members to the Federal Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Commanding Base Officer, FORMOSO, Capt. Suleiman Ibrahim, said the suspects’ activities were detected with the use of maritime domain awareness equipment.
The commander added that the 26 suspects were trawling within the five nautical miles restricted zones and had undocumented persons on board, explaining that he thereafter deployed his men to intercept them.
Ibrahim said the area was meant for local fishermen and not bigger vessels and was being monitored to avoid conflicts between local and industrial fishermen, noting that the action by the suspects was carried out intentionally since they were conversant with the laws.
“The five nautical miles restriction zone is supposed to be used by artisan fishermen locally, and the monitoring is done to prevent conflicts between the both of them. The regulation is known to all the fishing companies, and it is clear that by this act, the two trawlers deliberately carried out their actions,” he alleged.
He, however, said further investigations would be done by the relevant authorities and advised those operating along the Nigerian waterways to do so within laid down rules and regulations which they had already been intimated with.
In his remarks, the Assistant Director, Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Unit of the Federal Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Mr. Paul Opoama, said he has come to officially receive the two vessels and crew members arrested by the navy for further investigation.
Opoama noted that with the agency’s collaboration with the navy, such illegalities within the Nigerian territorial waters would be nipped in the bud before causing serious crisis.
“We have been collaborating with the Nigerian Navy and we have our memorandum of understating. That is why the two trawlers were apprehended for violating the sea fishery acts of which vessels are not supposed to trawl within the first five nautical miles,” he said.
Captain of ORC 5 vessel, Mr. Olayeye Ejagbomo, and his counterpart in charge of CYNTHIA, Mr. Ayemobuma Omosuyi, in an interview with journalists, did not deny the allegation.
But Ejagbomo, who could not respond to the allegation of having undocumented persons on board, claimed that he lost communication signals with his company before deciding to move into the restricted
Local fishermen who depend on the trade for survival in the waterways have severally complained of the destruction of their fishing nets by the huge trawlers, leading to the killing of one Ayebaeifin Gabriel, aged 30, during one of the clashes.