Fishers under the auspices of FishNet Alliance have called for support for fishers in Makoko, Lagos State and in other coastal communities across the country.
The call was made during a meeting of members of the Alliance in Makoko.
The fishers who expressed how they struggled for survival during the lockdown noted that they were deprived of access to fishing grounds and daily income to take care of their families.
While speaking at the meeting, the leader of the Alliance, Lagos State chapter, Akintimehin Claudius Adewole, stated that “there are high activities of sand mining (dredging) going on in the area and this has severely impacted on the livelihoods of the community people.”
He called on the government to provide support for the fishers and roll out policies that protect the aquatic environment, clean-up already polluted areas and guarantee the rights of the people to a decent livelihood as fishers.
The Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey urged that adequate support systems should be put in place to ensure the wellbeing of fishers whose services are essential.
He added that, “without fish a vast population of Nigerians would go without that source of protein thus exacerbating the nutritional deficiencies in the population.
Bassey said “Our fishers are among the most vulnerable of our country”
“Special measures including ensuring that wastes are not dumped into our water bodies to ensure healthy aquatic species and higher catch for the fishers. It is regretted that thousands of fish died off the Niger Delta coasts between February and May 2020 and to date there is no definitive statement from government about what killed the fish and what actions have been taken to avoid future occurrences.”
Officials of FishNet Alliance urge that relevant government agencies should work with fishers to develop policies that will help protect the aquatic ecosystems, especially in the restoration of polluted areas and the creation of freshwater and marine protected areas.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions on movement imposed by the government have seriously impacted fishers and farmers in rural communities who have no formal jobs and who rely on their day to day expedition for their sustenance.
Some fishers at the meeting lamented that the pandemic has brought about disruptions in supply chains for fish due to disruptions in transportation, trade, and labour. Many people employed in the sector, such as fish vendors, processors, suppliers or transport workers lost their jobs and subsistence has become a huge challenge.
HOMEF in a show of empathy, during the meeting extended food items to the fishers who were already vulnerable from the issues of pollution and displacements and as a way of cushioning the impact of the environmental and socio-economic stress brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The alliance demanded that the government should put adequate measures in place to help fishers during COVID-19 pandemic adding that there should be increased participation of fishers in public policies with regard to the aquatic environment
They also demanded that traditional knowledge of fishing practices, including those that would help mitigate climate change impacts should be adopted in policies.
Also among the demands was the need to halt Indiscriminate displacement of fishing settlements and sand-filling of fishing creek, rivers and wetlands and fishers should unite and engage in further dialogues to equip members with skills to serve as environmental defenders.
FishNet Alliance is an Africa-wide network of fishers engaged in and promoting sustainable fishing in line with ecosystem limits. The Alliance opposes extractive activities in water bodies – including rivers, lakes and oceans.