Why foreign vessels still plunder Nigeria’s fishing resources —Anishere

Maritime lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Jean Chiazor Anishere, has blamed the absence of a strong legal framework for the continuous plundering of Nigeria’s fishing resources by foreign vessels.

Speaking exclusively with the Nigerian Tribune on the sideline of an orientation programme put together by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for the House of Representatives Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration, Anishere explained that moribund laws that are no longer in sync with current realities contributes majorly to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Nigerian waters.

She said, “Let’s take a look at our Fisheries Act which also falls under the blue economy. We are talking of harnessing our blue economy yet our Fisheries Act is archaic.

“Blue economy is utilising marine resources for economic growth while sustaining the eco-system. Sustainability of the eco-system must be a part of the definition of the blue economy.

“The Nigerian Fisheries Act of 1967 under section 1 says where there is an offence committed by the owners of the fishing craft, it is punishable with a fine of N500 or six months imprisonment. This is totally ridiculous because in Nigeria of today, N500 won’t even buy you a loaf of bread.

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“So, if our Fisheries Act as at today says IUU fishing is punishable by a fine of N500, then we shouldn’t expect foreigners to stay off our waters. Illegal poaching will keep happening and offenders will gladly pay the N500 fine if arrested. In Nigeria of today, six months imprisonment is not commensurable to N500 fine.

“Criminals who plunder our fishing resources will gladly part with N500 if caught than go to prison for six months. And they will keep coming back because they know all they need to have is N500. So you can see that our Fisheries Act is weak. It is no longer in tandem with current realities in Nigeria today.

“The Fisheries Act was enacted when our naira was almost on the same level with the dollar. Back then, N500 was a lot of money and could easily match the option of six months imprisonment.  With current realities in Nigeria, our Fisheries Act of 1967 is no longer relevant. There is need for an amendment of the law.

“Even the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act of 2019 does not make any reference to fisheries. It does not make any provision for IUU offences.”

“Yes, the SPOMO Act says ‘other maritime offences’ but it doesn’t make provision for fisheries. So, in most cases, the courts go back to the Fisheries Act, which is weak and does not have adequate provisions for offences committed under the issues relating to the blue economy and this will not augur well for us to harness the potential of the blue economy.”


Tribune Online