By Richards Adeniyi
Following ongoing effort by the federal government to diversify the nation’s economy, it has emerged that Nigeria can save over N288 billion ($800 million) being spent on the importation of fishes annually, if the nation’s deep ocean resources are optimally developed and harnessed.
Director/Head, Fisheries Resources Department, Nigeria Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research, Dr. Parcy Ochuko Obatola, who disclosed this, said Nigeria is naturally endowed with a lot of marine resources.
According to him, these resources have been left untapped over the decades thereby leading to huge economic losses. Research, she further stated that Nigeria consumes about 2million metric tons of fishes every year but can only produce less than 800,000 metric tons domestically thereby necessitating the importation of about 1.2 million metric tons.
She disclosed that over 70 per cent of the fishes domestically supplied are produced by small scale fishermen whose activities litter the coast line.
“Right now when we look at the demand and supply of fishes in Nigeria, there is still a huge deficit. The demand is almost three million metric tons per annum. The supply is about two million metric tons and there is still a deficit of over one million including those imported and those produced within this country. We are producing about 800,000 metric tons in Nigeria.
So we can see the reason we actually need to carry out activities when it comes to blue economy.
“Most of the fisheries that are exploited in Nigeria are done at the inshore waters and have consequently put a lot of pressure on the resources and negatively impacted the ecosystem via indiscriminate pollution, water contamination and other forms of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing otherwise known as IEUs. This has translated into a situation where there are lesser catches and smaller sizes of fishes”, she stressed.
She therefore, called on the government and other stakeholders to help ensure that the activities of the fishermen are regulated and managed while the deep ocean resources are tapped to help reduce pressure on the inshore waters.
Obatola further explained that various surveys conducted by the institute had shown that some rare species of fishes and other marine resources are in the Nigerian territorial waters especially at the deep oceans revealing that practicable recommendations on how they can be exploited for the economic benefits of the nation have been forwarded to the federal government.
She stressed that Nigeria could be losing about N50 billion yearly to illegal fishing and other unregulated activities of intruders at the deep oceans.
“We have carried out surveys and found out that there are resources in the deeper waters that the fishing industry can exploit so that the inshore waters would have a respite, if the pressure on them is reduced. We have other resources out there that can be exploited. As I am talking to you right now, Nigeria as a nation is not exploiting our Tuna resources but that doesn’t mean that people are not exploiting it. People come from other places to exploit them on our territorial waters.
“Apart from that, we also have what is called harima-bondi. It is the kind of fish that can replace the imported sardine; in fact it was canned in this institute just to let the industry know what can be done. Tuna was also canned in this institute years back so that the industry can go further to exploit other resources out there,” she said.
The expert explained that part of the resources present in the nation’s deeper waters is the mesopelagic resource, which is very useful for the production of fish meals noting that the major problem that has hindered aquaculture from being what it should be in Nigeria is the input.
She disclosed that fish meals constitute about 70 per cent of the running cost of an aquacultural establishment.
“Feed is very pertinent because a crucial component of that feed is fish meal and as we say right now, fish meal is mainly imported to Nigeria. So, that’s another way of getting our money out via capital flight if we are able to substantiate it now that we know we have it. Our duty is to look at the quantum because another value chain that the fishing industry can go into is getting the mesopelagic resource and turning it to the fish meal that will now be incorporated into the fish feed that the aquaculture sector uses.
“We actually have a lot of resources but it is not about just having the resources. We need to work on how we maximize or exploit them so that it will be useful for us in the country and also the artisanal sector. There is enough that can be done and we are playing our own role,” she said.