The Federal Government says the demand for fish exceeds 3.6 million metric tons but the country is only able to produce about 1.2 million metric tons.
Mr Ime Umoh, the Director, Fisheries Department in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, made this known at the ‘Second Dialogue with Regional Economic Communities (RECS) implementation of Fisheries Governance Project phase 2 (FISHGOV-2) on Monday, in Abuja.
The three-day dialogue is co-hosted by African Union Development Agency, AUDA-NEPAD, and African Union-InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources, AU-IBAR, with the support of European Union, EU.
According to Umoh, Nigerian fish industry can only produce 1.2 million metric tons of fish from industrial, artisanal and aquaculture sub-sectors.
Umoh, who said that Nigeria had benefited from Phase 1 of the FISHGOV project, and the success was glaring, expressed optimism that the Phase 2 would also boost fish production in Nigeria.
“The Minister of Agriculture has a very big passion for fishing production because we believe that fish is the cheapest source of protein and the total fish for the country is more than 3.6 metric tons.
“But we are not able to meet up this target because of some of the issues that we are going to be discussing in this dialogue.
“We are only able to produce about 1.2 metric tons in all the sub-sectors in the industrial, the aquaculture, and also the artisanal sub sector,” he said.
In the area of achievement, Umoh said the Fisheries Department had licensed 164 fishing vessels, through the Nigerian Territorial Waters and the Economic Zones.
He further said that to safeguard the health of Nigerians, the Federal Department of Fisheries had drafted inspectors to ensure importers follow due process before selling the commodity to Nigerians.
“Frozen fish is good because before frozen fish is brought into the country, we have what we call task certificate; we have to certify where are they bringing this frozen fish, what is the health status, how is being stored, we inspect the cold-room.
“We have inspectors in Lagos, Abuja and others who go there to certify that the frozen fish being brought into the country is in very good condition,” he said.
He said that government had also installed monitoring systems in Abuja and also one in Lagos to monitor the activities of the fishing vessels.
“In the artisanal sub sector, we have been able to register the canoes and build up the capacity of artisanal farmers as well as supplying them with inputs, canoes, fishing gears and other equipment that will help them to increase their production.
“In the aquaculture sub sector, we have established what we call fish farm estates, feeds farm clusters, and other activities that will stimulate the aquaculture production in Nigeria.
“We have also intervened on the whole value chain in terms of the production, processing and also the marketing structure
“We have also provided processing equipment, storage equipment and enhanced a structured market facilities that will help the aquaculture sub sector to grow,” he said.
Speaking with newsmen, African Union Commission, AUC, Ms Panduleni Elago, promised that Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, CAADP would support artisanal fish farmers and small scale fish farmers to bridge the gap existing fish demand in Nigeria.
Elago, who is CAADP Advisor, said fish is one of the healthiest and cheapest proteins to human being.
“Fish is one of the healthiest and cheapest proteins to human being, and as we strive to end hunger in Africa by 2025, we also seek to support all those involve in the fisheries sector; small scale farmers, the non-state actors and civil societies,” he said.
Mr Ernest Aubee, The Head of Agriculture and Food Security Division of the ECOWAS Commission, said that ECOWAS had collaborated with the Nigerian Navy to protect the territorial waters of the sub-region from criminal activities as it affects fish production.
According to him, ECOWAS is putting a lot of emphasis on fisheries and aquaculture, and it is in this light the European Union, and the African Commission came together to develop a fisheries governance programme for Africa called PESCAU.