• Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

Nigeria, a nation blessed with vast coastlines and abundant marine resources, finds itself grappling with a persistent threat that casts a dark shadow over its aquatic treasures: illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. This widespread menace not only depletes fish stocks but also harms ecosystems, costing the nation dearly in economic and environmental terms.

Nigeria’s coastal waters have become a battleground for a clandestine war – a war fought beneath the waves where the perpetrators often go unnoticed. Illegal fishing, a silent threat, is causing havoc in the country’s maritime ecosystem, jeopardizing the livelihoods of coastal communities and the health of marine life.

A closer examination of the data and facts surrounding illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Nigeria sheds light on the magnitude of the issue. The vast and devastating impact of illegal fishing in Nigeria is highlighted by data from various sources.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that IUU fishing costs Nigeria between $70 million and a staggering $800 million annually. This represents a significant portion of the national economy and emphasizes the urgent need for action.

Furthermore, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) reports that 20% of the global fish catch is attributed to IUU fishing, painting a grim picture of the widespread nature of this problem. This statistic underscores the urgency for international cooperation and coordinated efforts to tackle this global challenge.

Closer to home, data from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) reveals that over 2 million Nigerians are directly employed in the fishing industry. This highlights the immense human cost of IUU fishing, as it threatens the livelihoods and food security of millions of Nigerians who rely on the fishing industry for their survival.

Also, a report by the House of Representatives of Nigeria emphasizes the economic losses incurred due to IUU fishing. The report’s findings suggest that the nation loses millions of dollars annually, hindering economic development and jeopardizing the well-being of coastal communities.

CAUSES: A Complex Web of Entanglement
The root causes of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Nigeria form a complex web of entanglement, with multiple contributing factors such as limited/inadequate resources, week governance, foreign fleet intrusion, local poverty, lack of awareness amongst others.

Nigeria grapples with inadequate resources, including a shortage of patrol vessels, personnel, and technology. This scarcity hinders the effective monitoring and enforcement needed to curb illegal fishing activities along its extensive coastline.

The presence of loopholes in regulations, coupled with issues such as corruption and poor coordination between relevant agencies, creates vulnerabilities in the governance structure. These weaknesses provide opportunities for illegal fishing practices to persist without adequate checks.

The intrusion of industrial vessels from distant countries into Nigerian waters presents a significant challenge. These vessels engage in illegal exploitation of marine resources, often employing destructive practices that further exacerbate the issue. The inability to control such intrusions adds to the complexity of combating IUU fishing.

In areas marked by economic hardship, desperate communities lacking alternative livelihoods may resort to unsustainable fishing methods. The pressure to secure immediate sustenance can drive these communities to engage in practices that contribute to overfishing and the depletion of marine resources.

A pervasive lack of awareness among local fishermen compounds the problem. Many individuals engaged in fishing activities may remain uninformed about existing regulations or the long-term impacts of their practices. This lack of awareness perpetuates a cycle of non-compliance, making it challenging to address IUU fishing at its roots.

In the ongoing battle against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is expected to take the helm, steering the course and confronting the challenges posed by tumultuous waves.

NIMASA, in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, is expected to intensify patrols along the expansive Nigerian coastline, utilizing available resources to monitor and deter illegal fishing activities. Recognizing the global nature of IUU fishing, NIMASA should engage in collaborative efforts with regional and international bodies to enhance information sharing. This strategic cooperation will track and apprehend vessels engaged in illicit fishing practices.

NIMASA should actively participates in the implementation of the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA). This initiative involves denying port access to vessels suspected of participating in IUU fishing, thereby contributing to a more robust regulatory framework.

NIMASA should also conduct training workshops aimed at empowering law enforcement officials and coastal communities with knowledge about fisheries regulations and sustainable practices. This capacity-building approach is pivotal in fostering a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding IUU fishing.

While NIMASA plays a central role, the Nigerian Marine Police, operating under the umbrella of the Nigerian Police Force, stands on the frontlines, facing challenges in their mission to apprehend offenders and enforce regulations. Some of their challenges include, insufficient funding, outdated equipment, political interference, amongst others.

Limited financial resources constrain the Nigerian Marine Police’s ability to patrol extensive stretches of coastline effectively. This limitation compromises the overall effectiveness of their enforcement efforts. Patrol boats and surveillance technologies employed by the Nigerian Marine Police often lack the necessary range and capabilities to counter modern illegal fishing practices effectively.

Also, the Nigerian Marine Police faces instances of alleged interference by powerful interests, posing a challenge to the impartiality and efficacy of investigations and prosecutions.
In the dynamic and often treacherous landscape of combating IUU fishing, both NIMASA and the Nigerian Marine Police play crucial roles. Their dedication to enforcement and the overcoming of challenges are essential components of the broader effort to safeguard Nigeria’s marine resources and protect coastal communities from the detrimental impacts of illegal fishing.

Addressing the pervasive issue of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Nigeria demands a comprehensive and collaborative approach, aiming to stem the tide of this detrimental practice. Eradicating IUU fishing requires a multi-pronged strategy that encompasses various facets:
Strengthening Enforcement: Vital components include, increased funding, providing modern equipment, and fostering robust regional cooperation. These measures are essential to enhance the effectiveness of enforcement efforts, creating a more resilient defense against illegal fishing activities.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: Education becomes a pivotal tool in combating IUU fishing. Initiatives aimed at educating fishing communities about existing regulations, offering insights into alternative livelihoods, and highlighting the long-term consequences of IUU fishing play a crucial role in fostering sustainable practices.

IMPROVED GOVERNANCE: The foundation of eradicating IUU fishing lies in strengthening legal frameworks, addressing corruption, and ensuring transparency in fisheries management. These governance improvements are fundamental to creating an environment where illicit activities are less likely to thrive.

TECHNOLOGICAL SOLUTIONS: Embracing advanced technologies such as satellite monitoring, vessel tracking systems, and data analysis contributes to smarter enforcement strategies. This tech-driven approach enhances the capacity to monitor and control fishing activities more effectively.

The repercussions of inaction against IUU fishing are severe, posing a threat to Nigeria’s marine environment and its people. This will lead to depleted fish stocks. Unsustainable practices jeopardize the future of Nigeria’s fisheries, compromising both food security and the livelihoods of the communities dependent on them.

Also IUU will also lead to habitat destruction and economic loses. Destructive fishing methods contribute to the degradation of fragile ecosystems, negatively impacting biodiversity and the well-being of coastal communities. IUU fishing results in substantial economic losses for Nigeria, with estimates suggesting annual losses in the millions of dollars. These financial setbacks hinder economic development and sustainability.

Effectively combating IUU fishing necessitates collective responsibility from government agencies, local communities, and international partners. By investing in resources, strengthening governance structures, and promoting sustainable practices, Nigeria can safeguard its precious marine resources and ensure a brighter future for coastal communities. The urgency to act is paramount, while emphasizing the need for proactive measures before the tide of IUU fishing turns against us.

Hyacinth Beluchukwu Nwafor

Hyacinth Beluchukwu Nwafor is a seasoned journalist and the CEO/Founder Belch Digital Communications, publishers of Hybrid News Nigeria.

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