By Godwin Oritse
THE department of fishery and Aquaculture under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture has licensed a total of 143 fishing vessels allowed to fish marine products in the nation’s territorial and coastal waters for the year 2019.
Speaking exclusively to Vanguard Maritime Report, Mrs Bola Kupolati, Deputy Director, Fisheries Department of the Ministry in charge of the Lagos area, said that fishing vessels are licensed on yearly basis with a view to monitoring the activities of these vessels.
Kupolati who is also in charge of monitoring, surveillance and control of vessels said that more vessels got licenses for catching shrimps as against fishes. She explained that out of the 143 vessels, 141 of them got license for shrimps and only two got for fish.
Explaining further, Kupolati said that fishing trawlers are allowed to catch fish with five nautical miles from the shore of the nation’s coastal waters adding that five nautical miles away from the shore is considered as inshore shrimping and fishing. She disclosed that while N500,000 is charged to license vessels for inshore fishing and Shrimping, N1million is charged for vessel that are involved in distance water or deep sea fishing. According to her, the essence of the Ports State Measures Agreement, PSMA, is to prevent, eliminate and deter illegal fishing in our waters and this was introduced globally, so countries are expected to ratify this agreement.
She said “This measure is to prevent foreign vessels from bringing in fish without authorisation from where the fish was caught into our country through the ports. “Like I said this office is in charge of monitoring, control and surveillance of vessels and fishing activities on our water.
“We have collaboration with the Nigerian Navy because we do not have patrol vessels and we do not carry arms.
“So we do have this collaboration with the Navy and NIMASA Customs, Marine and the Ministry of Justice, Marine Police and a few other stakeholders.
“From time to time we send our licensed list of vessels to NIMASA, Marine Police.
“Nigerian Navy, for example, when they see a vessel at sea and the name of that vessel is not on the list we sent to them, that vessel is arrested and send back to us for appropriate sanction.
“Fishing in prohibited areas of our waters is also a crime.
“For example fishing with five nautical miles from the shore is prohibited for trawlers, you must go beyond five nautical miles.
“But the canoes are allowed within five nautical miles because it is also a reserve area for the nursery of fish so we do not allow big vessels to come in there.
“Nigerian Navy already knows this, so when they find any vessel within this area they have the right to arrest the vessel and hand over to department of fisheries for appropriate sanctions.
“So what we have done again is to install tracking devices on the vessels, we have the Automatic Identification System, AIS, and Vessel Monitoring System, VMS, so that we can track the vessels from our office.”