By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives on Wednesday decried the loses of $70 million to Chinese and other European trawlers annually due to illegal fishing activities in the nation’s waters as observed by the Nigerian Navy since 2017.
The House equally aksed the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to put measures in place to curb illegal fishing activities on Nigeria’s waters.
The Green Chamber also urged the Federal Government to review its licensing policy that tends to favour foreign trawlers at the expense of their local counterparts and encourage indigenous investments into this agricultural sector.
These resolutions of the House followed a motion on the Need to Curb Fishing by Foreign Vessels on Nigeria’s Territorial Waters by Hon. Patrick Ifon on Wednesday.
It further urged the Federal Government to prevail on the Gulf of Guinea Commission to urgently introduce a legally binding framework to check excessive fishing or overfishing in the region.
The Lawmakers were concerned that illegal and unregulated fishing in Nigeria’s waters undermines the economy, poses a security threat to the nation’s territorial waters, degrades the coastal communities and renders artisan fishermen redundant.
According to the House, Nigeria is a nation with a large coastal area rich in marine species, yet over half of the fish it consumes are imported from China and the Netherlands.
The House said that Nigeria is the 4th largest importer of fish in the world with about two million metric tons per annum for an estimated population of over 200 million people.
“Worried that despite Nigeria’s non-fishing agreement and arrangements with distant nations such as China and the European Union, illegal fishing on Nigeria’s waters persists due to bilateral agreements with the nearby Country of Sao Tome and Principe.
“Concerned by the Overseas Development Institute’s Report of 2018 that illegal fishing boats from China, Netherlands and Spain operating in the Country’s territorial waters commonly transfer catches from their trawlers into container and cargo vessels on the high seas, thereby flouting quota regulations.
It was also concerned that the Gulf of Guinea Commission, which was established in 2001, to check issues bordering on fisheries beyond 20 nautical miles of each member nation is yet to come up with a legally binding framework to tackle illegal fishing activities.
The Committee on Agricultural Production and Services was mandated to investigate the matter and report back within three weeks for further legislative action.