From African waters to China and back again, over half the fish on Nigerian tables is imported
Makoko: the fishing community running out of fish
A report from the Overseas Development Institute used satellite tracking to monitor the methods of exploitation used by foreign fleets within the stretch of water from Senegal to Nigeria. It revealed fishing boats commonly transfer catches to other vessels in order to flout quota regulations. Catches are also transported via container ships that are subject to less stringent checks. Vessels from China, the Netherlands and Spain were identified.
Okafor-Yarwood studied Nigeria’s fisheries in 2015. “The department of fisheries cannot engage in pursuit because they do not own [an effective] patrol vessel,” she said. Their vessels have a range of no more than 200 nautical miles.
“The navy are trying, but their vessels are derelict… Then you find corrupt personnel taking backhanders to let certain things slide.” This includes fishing with finer-mesh nets to catch more fish.
In December 2018, the Nigerian government approved the purchase of two patrol boats for the department of fisheries “to monitor unreported, unregulated and illegal fishing by Chinese vessels”, according to local media outlet the New Telegraph. But Okafor-Yarwood is worried that the vessels will be manned by the navy, which has no expertise in collecting evidence of fisheries crimes.
Fresh fish being frozen out
In the nineteenth century, Makoko was a tiny fishing village in the growing trading hub of Lagos. Economic dreamers from Nigeria’s coastal states and neighbouring countries journeyed to the area in search of wealth. But short on affordable land, they expanded onto water.
Today, more than 100,000 people call this stretch of water home. Their stilted shacks, a testament to Lagosian ingenuity, are considered illegal by the Nigerian government.
Located by the side of Nigeria’s most famous slum is Asejere Makoko fish market. On a Thursday evening, before the sun sets over Third Mainland Bridge, the ringing of commerce in this sprawling market can be heard from afar as journeymen, businesswomen and students buy their evening meal. Croaker, mackerel, tilapia and sharp-toothed barracuda are piled unceremoniously in plastic buckets.
Fishwives on the lookout for buyers slice and dice fish caught earlier by their husbands, while wheelbarrow boys carry assorted livestock parts, hollering their presence as they carve a path through the crowds.
Many of the fish caught, filleted and sold in Asejere, are destined for a stockpot of obe eja tutu (Nigerian fresh fish stew) and have come from the nearby ocean.
But 18-year-old Janet Hunukon has no fresh fish to flog. She is more concerned with enticing customers down a concrete alley nestled in the market’s belly where her ice block coolers sit full of frozen fish.
Farmed Chinese tilapia is popular because it is cheaper and more profitable than locally-caught fish. “We make more money from frozen,” said Hunukon. “If you buy a carton for 8,500 naira (US$24) you can sell it for 12,000 naira (US$33).”.... Continue reading