Margaret Orakwusi still speaking out against IUU fishing in Nigeria

... Commends Ghana Authority's action over arrest and fine of perpetrator 

Mrs Margaret Orakwusi
The arrest and fine charged a trawler owner in Ghana recently, over  an issue of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing activities have obviously further established the seriousness attached to addressing the issue as it affects fish and fisheries in Africa.
In Nigeria, Barrister Margaret Orakwusi, the Chairperson, Shipowners Forum and a former President of the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA), has been an active voice speaking against IUU fishing and looking at the need for arrests and prosecution of perpetrators of the act, in order to maintain sanity in the fishing procedures in Nigeria’s waters.

Sharing her thoughts on the development that an arrest was made and the perpetrator fined $1 million USD,  Orakwusi said it was a welcome step towards helping Africa achieve sustainability in the manner of harvesting  its marine resources for the benefit of the future in food production, particularly for protein.

She noted that in the case of IUU fishing being perpetrated in Nigeria, there are laws for regulation, but the problem had remained poor implementation, which had left Nigeria vulnerable to IUU fishing, particularly by foreigners who have nothing at stake in the country.

She said: “Good that Ghana took that step to begin to check IUU fishing. We would want to see that happen in Nigeria too. For many years, we have been crying out that we have a lot of poachers and we have these big vessels from Europe, Asia and where ever.

“They don’t have our fishing license to fish in our waters, they don’t fly our flag, they have nothing at stake and they fish in a most irresponsible manner. Nobody regulates them, they come with all sizes of nets and they don’t care.

“One good thing is that because of the number of trawlers we have, we can monitor what goes on in our waters. But these are big vessels. I will like to see what happened in Ghana happen here, especially the Chinese, who fish in a most irregular manner.

“They sweep from bottom to top and do pair trawling, which they dare not do in their own country or in any civilized country that is serious about what goes on in their domain.

“But, I also realise that it may be difficult to fight out there in the sea, although Ghana is doing it.  At times it is quite sensitive to compare Nigeria with some of these African countries, because they are small. Lagos State is a bit bigger than some of those countries. What it means is that our challenges may be more than four times what they face. But it is doable, if Ghana is able to do it.

“However, if we don’t have the capacity to go out there and arrest the big vessels, we can bring the fight to the shore by putting pressure on the EU, the AU, telling them this is what their people are doing here. Attacking the markets. Where are they selling the products? Because fishing is highly scientific.

“As a Nigerian, for me to sell in any European country, I am under the EU regulation. What that means is that I have to have a good record of everything I have done, right from taking off from my jetty going out there to fish on hourly basis. So, they can trace any product. I have to comply with international standard on net and everything. I am using a turtle excluder device.

“So, those who steal our products and fish in a most irresponsible manner, where do they find markets for the products. We can also attack the financial institutions. How they are able to pass these dirty money, some people call it blood money. How are they able to move the money? We should not fail on fighting from this point.”

In her concern, Orakwusi wants authorities in charge of implementation of the laws on fishing and fisheries in Nigeria to rise up to the challenge to protect the resources, not only for today, but for the future as well.