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Fishing industry can surpass oil sector –Minister

The Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola, says the nation’s fishing industry can take from the oil sector if properly harnessed.

Oyetola said this during the stakeholders’ engagement with fishing trawlers held in Lagos on Tuesday.

Oyetola was represented at the event by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, Mr. Oloruntola Olufemi.

He said that the ministry recognised the immense contributions of fish trawler owners to the Nigerian economy in providing fish food nutrition, job creation as well as economic growth.

Oyetola said that the meeting was to collectively chart the course in achieving sustainable development in the Marine and Blue Economy, as well as deepening the rapport between the government and the stakeholders in the fishing trawlers business.

He said that President Bola Tinubu had established the ministryand its Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture to facilitate trade with their presence signifying growth as well as progress in the fisheries sector.

According to him, this gathering is the first since the establishment of the department in the ministry in 2024.

Oyetola said that the vision of the ministry was to lead the fisheries and aquaculture toward a prosperous and sustainable future.

“Fisheries and aquaculture is a key component of the Marine and Blue Economy which is the focus of the ministry action plan.

“This is an opportunity to chart the course and provide dialogue to bring innovative solutions and local capacities of Nigeria’s economy and the welfare of our people,” Oyetola said.

He urged the fishing trawler owners to collaborate with the ministry to finetune their operation in line with the seminar sponsored by the African Union held recently in Abuja.

He said that the target of the Ministry was to invest and finetune the framework to allow the enterprise to flourish.

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The President of the Fishing Trawlers Association of Nigeria (FTAN), Mrs Ben Okonkwo, said the nation’s fisheries sub-sector was operating with a turnover of between 80 million dollars to 100 million dollars business per annum.

She said that the association was established under a unified body in 1986.

“The association started with a new Menvera company, which later increased the number to 25 companies.

“Before the Association nosedived, we had about 250 boats, with over 100,000 workers across the board.

“At one point business nosedived due to the rise in pirate attacks, difficulties in accessing forex transactions and procurement of diesel.

The Managing Director of Karflex Fisheries, Mrs Mareenna Samuel, lamented the numerous challenges facing the fishing trawlers in Nigeria, adding that they were doing business with tears due to the non-accessibility of foreign currency.

“Automobile Gas Oil (AGO) costs almost N1,450 per litre and when our vessel goes for about 50 days. We sail our vessels using between N30 million to 35 million before now.

“Today, we sail our vessels between N140 million to N150 million; imagine the disparity; how much are we pushing to consumers?

“Nigeria has the best port in the world, every time you take a vessel on fishing after spending about N140 million to sail a vessel, you will realise N60 million and every time you lose N60 million in each container which is not encouraging.

“Government need to look into this because if we do not look for a solution now, the fishing business will go into extinction,” Okonkwo said.

The Managing Director, Atlantic Shrimpers Ltd., Mr Kamiesh Kabra, said that about 10 years ago, the fishing business in Nigeria was among the top five in the non-oil sector.

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“Fishing is facing a lot of changes as a result of the high cost of AGO, more than 50 per cent of the business was tied up and if this situation persists, we are going to go down to the export list.

A former executive, Fishing Trawlers Association of Nigeria, Mr Emma Nwgamah, said the high cost of diesel had made him go out of the shipping business.

In his contribution, the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Dayo Mobereore, said Marine and Blue Economy contributed a lot to the nation’s GDP.

He identified demand and supply as the challenges facing the industry, adding that the government was working towards creating a conducive atmosphere for stakeholders to flourish.

Mobereore said that the minister was committed to achieving a lot of progress in transforming the industry before the end of 2024 to enable practitioners to practice their business in the maritime space. (NAN)

Aisha Cole
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