Nigeria and other West African nations have been losing a whooping N2 trillion annually to the pillage of African fishing grounds by Asian and European countries.
This rip-off will continue unless concrete steps are taken to halt the trend, LEADERSHIP Sunday investigations have uncovered.
According to the Africa Progress Report launched by the former United Nations Secretary General, Koffi Annan in London, billions of US dollars a year are being plundered from West Africa yearly through illegal fishing, which is also prolonging poverty in Africa, the world’s poorest continent.
He estimated that the losses from fishing fleets flouting international conventions were costing West Africa at least $1.3 billion a year.
West Africa suffers proportionally more from illegal fishing than any other region of the world especially from European trawlers that remain the primary foreign presence.
In recent times, however, fleets from China, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea and Taiwan have also expanded.
They are involved in illegal, unregulated and unregistered fishing on the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the West African countries.
The West African countries include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, São Tomé and Príncipe and Togo.
It was gathered that the West African nations lose as much as $1.3 billion (N399 billion) to the act at a time when rising global demand for fish has made African waters a magnet for fleets from around the world.
Apart from draining the region of revenue, overfishing reduces fish stocks, lowers local catches and harms the marine environment. It destroys communities, who lose opportunities to catch process and trade fish.
Also, illegal fishing is putting the livelihoods and nutrition of millions of people on the continent at risk. Ultimately, this carries serious consequences for the rest of the world too, in terms of a sustainable supply of fish and protection against climate change.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Sunday on the sidelines of the just concluded 3rd Association of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA) conference tagged, “Sustainable Use of Africa’s Oceans and Seas” organised by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in Abuja, the Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara confirmed that illegal pillage of West African seas and oceans had led to an annual loss of over $1.3 billion.
Dogara said, “Statistics has it that illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing leads to a loss of over $1.3 billion in West Africa alone, yearly. We must tighten the legal and regulatory framework to stop these losses. We must intensify efforts to promote intra-African trade in fisheries as statistics also show that Pan-African fish trade is worth about 20 billion Euros. This will help to sustain African economies in the long term”.
Dogara who noted that fishing is one of the major economic activities of most maritime communities all over Africa, posited that sustainable development of the local fisheries sector had the capacity to improve food security and lift people out of poverty and hunger.
“We as a parliament have been at the forefront of legislation on maritime issues in the past and are currently, actively involved in processing legislations in the maritime sector”, he added.
He further charged African maritime organisations to change the present situation whereby Africans do not benefit from the abundance of natural resources in their seas and waterways, adding that “this is attainable only if the era of paying lip service to producing indigenous skilled seamen and women and indigenous fleet owners is replaced with one in which conscious and practical actions are taken towards achieving the goal”.
Also speaking to LEADERSHIP Sunday , the executive secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Barr Hassan Bello frowned at illegal, unregulated and unregistered shipping and advised African countries to protect their EEZ.
He said, “Illegal, unregulated and unregistered shipping is terrible. Every country has its EEZ which it protects but in Nigeria for example other nationals without any permit will come to Nigeria EEZ to degrade the environment and take away tons of fish.
“We are not protecting our environment, we only say we have deep sea, 800,000 kilometres of aquatic but that is not important, what is important is to be aware of maritime domain and after that, we protect it and when you protect it, you put your country first before any other person”.
The Association of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA), has, however, urged for the immediate strengthening of the legal and governance framework to stop IUU.
According to the continental body, there is need for the immediate strengthening of the legal and governance framework for monitoring and control of fishing activities on national and regional basis.
“Governments must equally develop measures in addition to FAO guidelines to protect the African exclusive economic zone and territorial waters from illegal, unlawful, unreported fishing by foreign fishing trawlers”, it said.