Federal Government has said the demand for fish has exceeded 3.6 million tons, lamenting that Nigeria produced only about 1.2 million metric tons, which did not meet local needs. Director of Fisheries Department in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Oneih Umoh, stated this at the second dialogue with the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) implementation of Phase Two of the government’s fisheries project recently in Abuja.
The three-day dialogue was Co-hosted by African Union Development Agency (AUDA), Inter Africa Bureau for Animal Resources (IBAR) with support of the European Union (EU). Umoh said Nigeria’s fish industry could only produce 1.2 million metric tons of fish from the industrial, artisanal and aquaculture sub-sectors, adding that the country had benefited from the Phase One of the FISH Government project and the success was glaring and as such expressed the hope that the Phase Two will also boost fish production in Nigeria.
“The Minister of Agriculture is passionate about fish production and the ministry believes that fish remains the cheapest source of protein and the total fish required in the country exceeds 3.6 metric tons.
But we could not meet the target because of some of the is- sues that we will be discussing in this dialogue. We are only able to produce about 1.2 million metric tons in all the sub-sectors of the industrial, aquaculture and artisanal sub-sectors,” he said.
Umoh said the Fisheries Department had licenced no fewer than 164 fishing vessels on the Nigerian territorial waters and economic zones, adding that to safeguard the health of Nigerians, the Federal Department of Fisheries had drafted inspectors to ensure that importers follow due process before selling fish to Nigerians.
“Frozen fish is good because as fish is brought into the country, we have task certificates to certify where they are bringing the frozen fish from and we inspect the cold rooms to determine the health status and how they are being stored.
“We have inspectors in Lagos, Abuja and others who go there to certify that the frozen fishing brought into the country is in very good condition,” he said, adding that the government had also installed monitoring systems in Abuja and Lagos to monitor activities of the fishing vessels. In the artisanal sub-sector, we have been able to register the canoes and build up the capacity of artisanal farmers as well as supplying them with inputs, canoes, fishing gears and other equipment that will help them to increase their production.
“In the aquaculture sub-sector, we have established fish farm estates, feed farm clusters and other activities to stimulate aquaculture production in Nigeria. We have also provided processing and storage equipment and enhanced structured market facilities that will help the aquaculture sub-sector to grow,” he said.
Speaking, representative of the African Union Commission (AUC), Ms Panduleni Elago, pledged that the comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CADP) would sup- port artisanal fish farmers and small-scale fish farmers to bridge the gap existing in fish demand in Nigeria.
Elago, who is CADP Advisor, said fish is one of the healthiest and cheapest proteins to human being, and as we strive to end hunger in Africa by the year 2025, we also seek to support all those involved in the fisheries sector, small scale farmers, the non – state actors and civil societies.
Also speaking, the Head of Agriculture and Food Security Division of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Ernest Aubee, said ECOWAS had collaborated with the Nigeria Navy to protect the territorial waters of the sub-region from criminal activities as they affect fish production.
He said ECOWAS emphasises fisheries and aquaculture and it is in this light that the EU and AUC are working together to develop fisheries programmes on the continent.