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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
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.   

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