In order to ensure sustainable fisheries resources, sustainable living and increase internally generated revenue of the country stakeholders in the fishery industry are unanimously calling for the review of Sea Fisheries Act 1992.

This is was agreed on during a stakeholders’ workshop organized by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in collaboration with The Resource and Environmental Policy Research Centre, Environment for Development, REPRC EfD-Nigeria, University of Nigeria, Nsukka which took place in Lagos.

Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Ernest Umakhihe,in his opening speech elucidated the importance of fisheries sector to the economic survival of the country especially the non-oil sector.

He said ‘as a coastal nation, Nigeria has a coastline of 853 kilometre and in continental shell of 37,934sq kilometers, Nigeria declares 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone and thus has the sovereign right for the purpose of exploiting, ensuring, conserving and managing its fisheries economic zone’.

Dr. Umakhihe  opined that the current Sea Fisheries Act 1992 is outdated after 30 years of promulgation,and believed that reviewing the document at this time will go a long way in benefiting not only the active players in the industry but also the Federal Government due to its money spinning nature as a non-oil sector.

According to him, 9 of the 36 states of the Federal States in Nigeria have a coastline with the Atlantic ocean, thus this waters requires proper management, conservation and protection in order to ensure sustainable fisheries resources’.

On the recent flooding incident that ravaged many parts of the country washing away many fish farms in various locations in Nigeria, the Permanent Secretary assured all stakeholders of the support of the Ministry in ensuring they have a new lease of life.

Dr. Umakhihe who was represented by the Director of Special Duties,Mrs. Fausat Lawal, said, ‘the Ministry is ready to stand by fish farmers following flooding in the country, as a result anybody that bring files for approval to the table, if the issue of flood is not represented will not be treated. The Ministry stands by the farmers and will stand by them all through’.

On his part, Director, Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Mr. Ime Umoh,  

highlighted the need why the review is very necessary especially after 30 years of the current Sea Fisheries Act 1992 was enacted, ‘with 3.6million metric tonnes per annum, we are not really able to meet up the standard, we are only able to produce about 1.25 metric tonnes per annum through industrial aquaculture and artisanal sectors and other deficits’

Mr. Umoh opined that ‘we are supplementing the importation and as a country we know that the importation of frozen food is not sustainable so we must try our best to reduce the deficit and domesticate fish production. As a department, we are intervening in all the sectors, especially the aquaculture sector by introducing a processing system and by giving out one tonne fish meal to the farmers and other intervention areas that will help us increase fish production in Nigeria’.

President, Nigeria Trawler Owners Association, NITOA, Mrs. Ben Okonkwo, appreciated Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and REPRC EfD-Nigeria for identifying with NITOA as a major stakeholder in the industry and hopes that the review of the existing act brings about positive change to the industry as a whole.

‘We are hoping that the government understands the importance of fishing subsector as one of the federal government’s non-oil revenue generating unit and will like to guide it jealously in ensuring that investors do not close their shops due to biting cost of operations’ she concluded.

Mrs. Okonkwo however hope that if and when this reviewed act is promulgated, it shall be sustainable in such a way that it will not further stiffen the industry, contravene the existing federal government policy on the bills of doing business and will not ultimately push the fishing industry into extinction.

Vice Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Professor Charles Arizechukwu Igwe applauded the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for collaborating with the Resource and Environmental Policy Research Centre, Environment for Development, REPRC EfD-Nigeria, for organizing the workshop at the time when Nigeria economy will benefit immensely from it.

He said, ‘the involvement of stakeholders from different parts of the country in the workshop underscores their interest in reviewing the Sea Fisheries Act of 1992 to meet the demands and expectations of Nigerians in fish production and consumption’.

‘As a research institute, the university of Nigeria Nnsukka, through the Resource and Environmental Policy Research  Centre, Environment for Development, REPRC EfD-Nigeria, will continue to carryout cutting-edge research to facilitate the institution and implementation of evidence-based policies to enhance Nigeria’s economic development and poverty reduction’ he concluded, 

The organizer of the workshop and the Director, REPRC EfD-Nigeria, Dr. Nnaemeka Chukwuone, is of the opinion that the existing Sea Fisheries Act 1992 is outdated after 30 years of existence and its review is long overdue so that all stakeholders will enjoy being part of the industry.

Dr. Chukwuone believes that ‘without a good institutional framework, we will not be able to control what’s happening in the fisheries sector, and after 30 years of the current act, there are a lot of problems and things happening to fisheries and aquaculture sector. The Act, if and when passed by the National Assembly into law, it will be a good business for Nigerians because the Fisheries Act is key to maintaining, sustaining and regulate the activities in both fisheries and aquaculture sector of the economy.

Dignitaries are the workshop includes President, Catfish Farmers Association of Nigeria, CAFAN, President Fisheries Society of Nigeria, FISON, Professor Emmanuel Oladipo, Dr. Ebele Amuechina among others.

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