The increased efforts of the present administration to drive the development of the fisheries industry which has been taking shape to the applause of many stakeholders, is being plagued with a major challenge of illegal fishing in its territorial waters, which according to a recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) results in an annual loss of over $60 million and has been identified as a major clog in the wheel of the development of the sub-sector.
According to Prof. Chioma Nzeh of the Department of Zoology, University of Ilorin, many marine and coastal ecosystems are close to collapse due to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, also known as Pirate fishing. Global losses from IUU fishing range from $10bn – $23.5billion annually as the harvest from IUU fishing represents almost one-fifth of the entire global catch.
IUU fishing is easy and highly lucrative due to lack of monitoring and enforcement especially in West Africa. These pirates target places called Inshore Exclusive Zones (IEZ) – which were created to protect shallow coastal waters where fishes come to reproduce. They target high value species whilst generating a huge amount of unwanted bycatch which is then tossed into the oceans dead or dying.
Coastal communities across West Africa are reporting a dramatic decline in the amount of fishes caught. As a result, they spend longer time at sea for fewer and smaller fish. This is because the rate of harvest far outstrips that of replenishment.
Describing the situation as unacceptable, Maria Damanki, European Union (EU) Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, disclosed that over 16 percent of fish imports to the EU stem from IUU fishing.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in its 2015 biennial report to Congress on IUU fishing has identified Nigeria as one of the six nations including Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua and Mexico in which IUU fishing is very rampant and as such is threatening the current efforts to secure long term sustainable fisheries as well as promote healthier and more robust ecosystems.
In a bid to tackle the situation, the United States has declared that if any of the listed nations do not take sufficient action as well as receive a positive certification in the next biennial report, it may prohibit the import of fisheries products from that nation and deny port privileges to their fishing vessels.
NOAA says it is committed to working with each of the cited nations to address these activities and improve their fisheries management and enforcement practices.