· Operators blame NIMASA for poor regulation
Some vessels and fishing equipment valued at $5.2billion are wasting at the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) and other fishing jetties in Lagos due to poor regulations and activities of Chinese illegal fishermen.
Already some Nigerian trawler operators have relocated to Ghana and other neighbouring countries because of operational high cost and piracy.
It was learnt that illegal foreign fishermen in the country have devastated the industry with poaching.
Former President of Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA), Barrister Margaret Orakwusi said that the menace of Chinese on Nigerian waters had made the country to contribute an insignificant percentage in the international fish market.
She added that poaching of Nigerian fish by the Chinese fishermen was a major challenge to local operators.
Already , a report by NITOA had said that more than 600,000 indirect jobs had been cut off in the sector because of regulation and activities of sea robbers in the last two decades.
The association noted some facilities, equipment and infrastructure worth $5.2 billion are already rusting at various fishing jetties due to the present harsh operating environment.
The association explained that the sub-sector of the economy, which had helped to create 6,000 direct jobs and 600,000 indirect jobs in the past had lost some of its industrial fishing trawlers to sea robbers and pirates.
It added that in the last two decades, no fewer than 130 vessels have gone into in extinction.
Orakwusi also noted that the operators had no reason to relocate to Ghana or elsewhere when there was a readymade market for the catches in Nigeria.
However, she said that incidences of sea robbers and poaching had affected the industry.
According to her, the Chinese are stealing our natural resources in an irresponsible manner. As operators, we cannot do anything except there is an intervention from government.
“We are still struggling with operational high cost. We use diesel more than any other industry and once there a little bit of price movement it affects us because we are not in a position to transfer that extra cost of production to off-takers.”
The former president stressed the need by government to have a dedicated maritime security and safety on the nation’s waters.
Lamenting the dwindling fortunes of the fish trawling sector in Nigeria, Orakwusi noted that it was a crime to fish or poach on natural resources without government approval or license.
She called on the Federal Government to save the sector from its comatose state.
Also, Orakwusi said that Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) was the agency saddle with the responsibilities of maritime security and safety.
She lamented that there was no fire fighting sea craft in the country to combat fire on the sea.
Orakwusi noted that government should go after those fishing illegally on Nigerian water without approval or license and arrest them.
According to her, no Chinese fishing firm can practice what they were doing in Nigeria in their country.
She said: “Those without government’s permission or license should be arrested and punished.”